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PBIA considers extending runway to avoid delays. Here's why it waited more than 10 years for project

FAA report shows project paused in 2012
A United Flight takes off from Palm Beach International Aiport while a Frontier flight taxis on the runway.
Posted at 10:33 PM, Apr 23, 2024

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — If Palm Beach International Airport doesn't extend one of its runways, travelers might experience more delays and fewer flights, airport officials warn.

Airport director Laura Beebe presented the proposal to Palm Beach County commissioners at a workshop session last Tuesday. She presented officials with the proposal because the airport's annual air service volume could reach its maximum capacity between 2028 and 2032 with its current airfield configuration.

This is where "unacceptable delays" would occur, according to the airport director.

"We want to take a moment to discuss the need to consider airfield improvements at PBI to ensure our facilities keep up with the anticipated demand," Beebe said. "PBI essentially operates as a single runway airport on busy days. You can't land and take off aircraft when you have an intersection."

This sketch shows proposed runway improvements at Palm Beach International Airport.
This sketch shows proposed runway improvements at Palm Beach International Airport.

The airport's solution is to extend runway 10R/28L to 8,000 feet, which would more than double its size. It would also make the crosswind runway (14-32) shorter.

Beebe said the consequences of not starting the change could create delays and less commercial air service.

"PBI will experience increased delays, reduce Commercial Air Service based on the uncertainty caused by the delays, increased aircraft emissions due to aircraft idling on the airfield and increased frequency of alternative headings by the air traffic control tower in an effort to reduce delays and increase aircraft separation," she said. "This is important because ... more people within the vicinity of the airport will be impacted by aircraft noise throughout the year."

Laura Beebe speaks about the need to expand a runway at Palm Beach International Airport during a meeting with county commissioners held April 16, 2024.
Laura Beebe speaks about the need to expand a runway at Palm Beach International Airport during a meeting with county commissioners held April 16, 2024.

Nicole Hughes, a spokeswoman for the Palm Beach International Airport, said the process is likely to take more than a decade to complete assuming the necessary approvals are received. She said the environmental review will take about two to four years.

A Federal Airport Administration report paused expanding the runway in 2012. Beebe said issues involved the great recession and the pandemic stopped the project from happening sooner.

Hughes said the recession created a significant decline in traffic, which meant the proposal from 2006 was "no longer considered ripe for final decision based on unforeseen economic events," she said in an emailed statement to WPTV.

Claudia Salazar speaks about what it's like living close to Palm Beach International Airport.
Claudia Salazar speaks about what it's like living close to Palm Beach International Airport.

Claudia Salazar, who lives east of the airport, said she's heard airplanes taking off and landing over her home for decades. She said the number of airplanes has increased with population growth, which makes it harder to perform activities outside.

"Trying to do something with the kids outside," Salazar said, "it's really annoying."