The Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) is proposing a $5.3 billion expansion, which would create 45,000 construction jobs over 12 years and 2,880 permanent jobs.
PHL is said to be the 6th most delayed U.S. airport. The expansion plan includes a new runway, proposed to be operational in 2016, and the lengthening of two existing runways, with the goal of alleviating some of the delays. The construction, if approved, is expected to take 12-15 years to complete.According to Mark Gale, PHL’s Chief Executive Officer:
The airport is probably the single largest economic engine in all of Southeastern Pennsylvania. If the airport does not expand to meet the forecasted needs, the area will miss out, and Philadelphia will remain one of the most delayed airports in the country.
Currently, PHL employs more than 141,000 people, and generates more than $14 billion in regional economic activity. According to PHL’s web site, “Over the next few years…[the airport] is anticipated to grow at least 3.8% in passenger volume and 4.6% in cargo volume per year.”
Approximately two-thirds of the funding for the project will come from airport-issued bonds. Payment of the debt service will come from the airlines (in fees and rates) and from concessions, parking, advertising and car rentals.
Opposition to the PHL Expansion
While PHL officials believe this construction will only benefit the city, the plan is being met with much opposition, mainly from local residents and airlines.
In order to complete the expansion, PHL would need to acquire 72 homes and approximately 80 businesses in Tinicum County, impacting more than 3,500 employees. Additionally, the expansion would require the relocation of the United Parcel Service (UPS) sorting facility west of PHL. This move would send all UPS traffic through Tinicum.
Many longtime residents of Tinicum do not want to sell, and are wary of their community’s future. Opponents of the expansion have formed the “Residents Against Airport Expansion in Delco”, in an attempt to keep their land.
US Airways, an anchor carrier at PHL is also opposed to the construction at this time. Michael Minerva, US Airways’ Vice President for Corporate Real Estate said:
US Airways supports the concept of growth and long-term planning at PHL. However, we believe that premature construction of a new runway will make PHL a less economically viable airport and US Airways a less economically viable airline…
Minerva went on to say that he did not believe a new runway alone would solve the congestion problems at PHL, “until there is a solution to airspace congestions.”
Next Stages of Construction
The Federal Aviation Administration is supposed to green-light the project later this month. Once that decision is finalized, PHL will need to work on negotiations with UPS, which has not committed to moving yet, and the residents of Tinicum. Pending the finalized negotiations, the project will be able to break ground.