Newark’s planned runway work may impact your summer travel

Apr 16, 2021

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Attention New York-area travelers: there could be delays this summer if you’re flying through Newark’s Liberty International Airport (EWR).

On Thursday, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, responsible for overseeing the EWR airport, announced that major runway rehabilitation work would begin in the coming days.

Runway 4R-22L — the airport’s main landing strip — was last rehabilitated nine years ago. Runways typically need maintenance every eight to ten years, due to surface deterioration from normal wear and tear.

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The project will begin this week and includes milling, repaving and repainting the runway surface, as well as the renovation of runway shoulders and intersecting taxiways, the replacement of electrical infrastructure and installation of new light fixtures.

“Maintaining runways in top-flight condition is the lifeblood of our airports and essential to keeping our facilities operating at the highest level,” said Port Authority executive director Rick Cotton. “We are committed to ensuring that all of our airports continue to provide best-in-class facilities, services and operations for our customers and our airlines.”

The project is slated to take roughly a year, with completion in the second quarter of 2022. Crews will work in consultation with the Federal Aviation Administration and airlines to minimize operational impact. Most of the work will be done at night and on weekends, but a full runway closure is scheduled for the peak summer season, from July 6, 2021, through Oct. 1, 2021.

The downtime will leave Newark with just two intersecting runways, 4L-22R and 11-29, the latter of which is primarily used during crosswind conditions.

United flyers could be the hardest hit. (Photo by Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

With limited runway capacity, flyers could be in for longer-than-usual ground hold times, as well as possible metering and sequencing on approach for Newark. Taxiways could become more congested as well, leading to backups in the alleyways and apron area near the gates.

Related: What do runway numbers mean?

Before the pandemic, Runway 4R-22L handled nearly 47% of the airport’s flight activity. With airline schedules on the rebound, you’ll definitely want to consider alternate area airports, like LaGuardia (LGA) and New York-JFK, in your upcoming summer travel plans.

It certainly would’ve been nice if the airport did this work last summer, during the height of the pandemic, when the airport saw just about 150 daily flights on average, according to Cirium schedule data.

United flyers will likely be the most affected. The Chicago-based carrier operates a mega-hub at Newark, with over 400 peak daily departures before the pandemic, according to Cirium timetables. United operates just a handful of flights from LGA, primarily to its hubs in Chicago (ORD), Denver (DEN) and Houston (IAH), and just two routes from JFK — to Los Angeles (LAX) and San Francisco (SFO).

An upgraded runway isn’t the only development happening at Newark. Construction is well underway on a brand-new, $2.7-billion terminal designed to replace the aging Terminal A. The project includes a consolidated rent-a-car center and expanded parking garage, as well.

Featured photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

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