By Alan Fleck | DFW Newsflash | August 2018
In front of a crowded space at DFW International Airport, filled with DFW Airport Board personnel, Airport workers, FAA personnel, Airline employees, dignitaries, and the media, U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Elaine L. Chao, announced delivery of a Letter of Intent from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) committing up to $180 million in Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grant funding for two end-around taxiway systems. Secretary Chao delivered the Letter of Intent to DFW Airport in person, emphasizing the importance of investing in airport infrastructure.
In addition to Secretary Chao, other dignitaries populated stage, each awaiting their turn to comment. Those present included: U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R) Texas, U.S. Representative Kay Granger (R) Texas, Mayor Betsy Price, City of Fort Worth; Mayor, Mike Rawlings, City of Dallas; Doug Parker, CEO, American Airlines, and Sean Donohue, CEO, DFW International Airport.
The End-Around Taxiway construction provides landing aircraft the ability to continue to their terminals without needing to stop to cross one of DFW’s seven active runways. These taxiways enhance safety, because they virtually eliminate active runway crossings, reducing the risk of possible incursion. Arriving aircraft will burn less fuel as they will no longer need to hold short and idle, but instead will be able to taxi directly to their terminals, reducing passenger wait times between landing and deplaning, thereby producing gains in runway efficiency and reducing overall taxi times for arriving aircraft.
DFW opened its first end-around taxiway system on the southeast side of the Airport in 2008. The schedule calls for the completion of a northeast corner taxiway system by 2021 (now under construction) and a southwest corner taxiway system by 2023. The final taxiway system, planned for the northwest corner, should be completed by 2025. The taxiways are part of an airfield infrastructure upgrade for all of DFW Airport, which turns 45 years old in January 2019.
“Today, I am announcing a $180 million dollar investment to ensure completion of two major taxiway complexes at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport,” Secretary Chao said. “These improvements will enhance capacity and efficiency by allowing aircraft to taxi without crossing busy runways. This will reduce the risk of inadvertent runway incursions. These improvements are expected to reduce delays by seven percent over the next twenty years, saving more than $270 million dollars. This Letter of Intent will provide the $180 million dollars as a series of grants that will be made over the next seven years.”
Secretary Chao went on to announce an additional airport improvement program of $30 million dollars for runway rehabilitation.
“[The DFW Airport Board] did something very important,” Chao said. “They planned for the future. They protected the critical real estate that provides sufficient space to execute these projects. They undertook the necessary planning analysis and they worked with air traffic controllers, airport planning experts and the airlines to design a project that will keep this airport operating at peak efficiency for many years to come. American Airlines provided leadership in supporting these important projects.
“The Administration not only supports Infrastructure [projects] like this, we are making it easier to execute these projects. We have begun to streamline the approval process, cutting red tape, and reducing unnecessary and wasteful regulations that don’t contribute to safety. By the end of 2018, the Department will have distributed a total of $3.18 billion dollars in grants to improve airports in America alone. Just for airports.”
Secretary Chao then surprised the attendees with announcement of a third grant.
“I’ve got a third grant for you,” Chao said. “I’m pleased to announce that the Department has just awarded an additional $100 million dollars to the TexRail Commuter Line for the project that will connect downtown Fort Worth with the Dallas Fort Worth International Airport. So I would say Dallas Fort Worth has done pretty well today with three major grants. These programs reinforce the natural partnership between the Department of Transportation and the local communities. We in this Administration do not believe it is our mandate to tell you which projects you should have. We want to partner with the local and state governments. Local communities do so much to contribute to the funding of infrastructure, and we want to make sure we are in coordination. We want to work with you and make sure Dallas Fort Worth Airport is the best that it can be.”
“With these [end-around taxiways] in place, air traffic controllers no longer have to use runways as intersection points for airplanes, that means these runways can be used for more efficient departure and arrival performance,” Sean Donohue said. “We are proud of DFW that twenty years ago, working with the FAA and NASA, we were instrumental in the concept, design and testing of these taxiways. The first end-around taxiway in the country opened here at DFW.”
“We know the travelling public loves to come through here, but our first focus must continue to be on safety,” Betsy Price said. “This grant will continue to promote the safety. The innovation that the airport brings is amazing from excellence in customer service, to working with our partner airlines, to helping serve and keep safe our customers. It really is about promoting the Fort Worth-Dallas region and continuing to move the airport forward.”
“Every day 400 new people relocate to DFW region,” Mike Rawlings said. “People are coming here in droves. The reasons they give us are many, but at the top of the list is what you all do, is DFW. We have an airport that makes us more competitive, I believe, and God’s gift of location, location, location. I think investments in this airport will get the greatest return on our taxpayer’s dollars, of anyplace. This is great investment by our country, by the Department of Transportation, by Congress. We will continue to make sure this airport runs safely and with a high degree of customer service.”
“Secretary Chao understands the critical role the DOT plays in ensuring the safety and efficiency of our country’s transportation systems and how these systems and infrastructure move the U.S. economy forward,” Doug Parker said. “The two new end-around taxiways we are celebrating today are the result of the government and private industry working together to develop creative solutions that help us better meet the growing demand for air travel.”
“Right now, on the east side, the airport moves very efficiently,” Lynn Lunsford, FAA, Mid-States Public Affairs Manager, said. “On the west side, planes still have to wait to cross the runway. On the east side [of the airport], we are eliminating between 500-700 runway crossings per day. It is both efficient and it is safe. We are eliminating the opportunity for miscommunication and runway incursions.”