JFK’s $10 Billion Renovation Won’t Include What It Needs Most — a New Runway

Sep 23, 2018

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Anyone who’s traveled to, from or through New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) has likely noticed that it’s in desperate need of a facelift. That could be soon on the way, but by the sound of it, one aspect that the airport is in desperate need of will be left out — a new runway.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that in the coming weeks, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is expected to announce the details of a $10 billion renovation for JFK. And while those details call out things like new roads for cars traveling to and from the airport, improved taxiways for aircraft and a more modern and consolidated terminal layout, the airport won’t get a new runway.

“Right now, a new runway is not on the table,” said Rick Cotton, Executive Director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

The airport needs the runway to accommodate the anticipated rise in passengers and demands in the coming decades, according to planners.

That’s not what the Port Authority thinks, however. In 2017, JFK served a record total of 59 million passengers, up 23% from 48 million in 2008. By 2035, the airport is expected to serve 80 million passengers annually, and the Port Authority believes the airport’s four runways are sufficient to handle that projected growth.

Instead, the Port Authority is shifting its focus to making JFK’s terminals more user friendly while avoiding the politically charged issue of new runways. “We need to transform JFK into an airport that can actually meet 21st century demands before we start considering new runways,” Cotton said.

Runway production is typically controversial because of noise and pollution concerns. If JFK were to build a new runway, it would likely be over Jamaica Bay, which is a wetland estuary. Oh, and it would likely cost billions of dollars.

People familiar with the airport’s development say that the time for the Port Authority to consider a new runway is now. In fact, these people say that the agency did indeed consider a new runway as far back as 2011, but the agency put those desires on hold because of the politics of it all.

JFK’s neighbor airport, LaGuardia (LGA), which is also under the control of the Port Authority, is in the midst of an $8 billion overhaul.

Featured image by Skyhobo / Getty Images.

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