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Three major U.S. airports open new runways

Three major U.S. airports open new runways

U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters, ironically, got stuck in three major U.S. airports Thursday.

   The cause was not congestion or delays, but ribbon cuttings.

   Peters was on hand to celebrate the near simultaneous openings of new runways at Seattle-Tacoma International, O'Hare International and Washington Dulles International airports. The new runways will allow an additional 330,000 take-offs and landings per year.

   Sea-Tac officially opened its new $1.1 billion third runway, ending more than 16 years of legal battles, development and construction.

   Designed to provide significant additional capacity at the airport, the new runway will also offer improved safety for landings in bad weather, a frequent situation at Sea-Tac.

   The cost of the 8,500-foot runway, which exceed original estimates by five times, will be paid for by a $4.50 fee on each Sea-Tac passenger ticket.

   The three airports tapped the government for a combined $643 million in federal airport improvement funds for the new runways.

   The new runway at Chicago's O'Hare, which cost $455 million, may turn out to be a bittersweet celebration for the airport as the Chicago Tribune reported Thursday that some airlines were balking at the next phase of a planned $15 billion modernization project at the airport.

   A new 9,400-foot-long runway at Washington-Dulles, the airport's fourth, also opened Thursday. It is the first new runway for the airport since 1962 and cost $356 million.

   Additional runway projects are also underway at major airports in Boston; Charlotte, N.C.; Dallas-Fort Worth; and Philadelphia.

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