2010-03-05 / Top Stories

Major JFK Runway Shut Down For Four Months

By Howard Schwach

A Google Earth Map of the JFK Airport shows the Bay Runway, 13R-31L. A Google Earth Map of the JFK Airport shows the Bay Runway, 13R-31L. Runway 13R-31L, often called the Bay Runway, the workhorse of John F. Kennedy Airport’s four airstrips, was closed down on Monday for long-time repairs, meaning more flights over the eastern end of the Rockaway peninsula, officials say.

The Monday closing seemed to verify the beliefs of many aviation experts that the runway closing would cause many problems for travelers using the airport.

The New York Post reported that the closing “wreaked havoc” on passengers, with many delayed flights, late arrivals and cancelled trips.

One official with the airport police told Post reporter Carolyn Salazar, “Shutting down a major runway is like closing down the George Washington Bridge. People will still get there, but it will become much more difficult.”

“We’re going to run delays for four months, and that’s just a statement of fact,” said head traffic controller, Steve Abraham.

At 14,572 feet, the runway is the second longest commercial landing strip in the country and it handles a third of the airport’s traffic, including more than half of its departures. The great majority of those departures take the aircraft over Jamaica Bay and the west end of the Rockaway peninsula, experts say.

Those experts say that the runway closure will increase delays at the airport because about a third of the airport traffic and half of the departures will have to be diverted from the Bay Runway to smaller runways, leading to longer lines both on the taxiways and in approaches to the airport.

The Bay Runway, which handles departures and arrivals over Jamaica Bay and the Rockaway peninsula, will undergo significant rehabilitation to reduce delays and improve airport operations, supporting an estimated 2,500 jobs, an official says.

“Since it first opened in 1948, John F. Kennedy Airport, and very often the Bay Runway itself, has been New York’s gateway to the world, serving millions of passengers each year, providing tens of thousands of jobs and generating billions in economic activity,” Governor David Paterson said upon announcing the reconstruction project late last year. “If Kennedy Airport is to remain a portal to and from this city and our country, we must continue to invest in it through necessary infrastructure upgrades.

The runway expansion, addition of taxiways and other improvements will save passengers time, reduce delays and costs associated with congestion and provide considerable economic development to this region.”

Construction on the Bay Runway is part of the second phase of the JFK Delay Reduction Program.

The project will widen the runway from 150 to 200 feet and will include a new drainage system, new electrical infrastructure, the addition of delay reduction taxiways and accommodations for future navigational aids. The project will support 1,000 direct and 1,500 ancillary jobs, including direct construction work, asphalt and concrete production, running of aeronautical lighting and food services.

Rockaway residents will remember that Runway 13R-31L was the departure point for American Airlines Flight 587, an Airbus A300 that crashed into Belle Harbor on November 12, 2001.

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