Which runway is being closed and why?

Runway 5R/23L is being closed temporarily for another phase of rehabilitation work.  The work is a continuation of last year’s project on a different segment of the runway.  Runway 5R/23L is one of the Airport’s three runways.  It is the runway closest to the Airport Terminal Building and runs in a southwest/northeast direction.  Click here for a diagram of the Airport runways.

How will air traffic be affected?

During the closure, aircraft that would normally use Runway 5R/23L will have to be shifted to the parallel runway (5L/23R).  This shift will result in a significant but temporary increase in the flights on that runway. 

In what directions will aircraft land and take off during the closure period?

Aircraft operations late at night and early in the morning (including most, but not all, of the FedEx hub operations) will generally take place over areas southwest of the Airport.  However, several factors may alter the normal pattern, such as wind speed and direction, other weather conditions and pilot choice.  Therefore, there will be some nights when the normal pattern is reversed.  The direction of daytime operations will largely be determined by wind speed and direction with more operations expected over the area northeast of the Airport than at night.

Who makes the decisions about runway use and flight procedures?

The FAA Air Traffic Control Tower and individual pilots make the decisions about which runways aircraft use and aircraft flight procedures – not the Airport Authority.  This is always the case and will be true during the runway closure period.  See “Frequently Asked Questions About Airport Noise” here for information about the Airport Authority and the control of air traffic decisions by Air Traffic Control and individual pilots.

What is the current status of the runway closure?

The runway renovation is progressing well, and more information can be found in the status update here.

What work is being done on the runway?

The work includes reconstruction of the runway pavement, renovation of the airfield lighting system and work on airfield drainage structures.  Approximately 4,450 feet of the runway will be renovated.  A prior phase of the project was completed last year on the northeast segment of the runway.

Will the renovation work be completed this year?

Following this year’s work, there will be a final phase of work on the runway, which will take place at the southwest end of the Runway 5R/23L.  Most of the runway will remain open during that phase, which will allow aircraft to continue using the runway while the work is underway.

Why is the work being done over multiple years rather than all at once?

The multi-year phasing of the work matches the FAA funding for the runway rehabilitation.  It has also enabled the Authority to time the construction so all the work is done in the summer months, when the weather is best and the work can be done more quickly, and to avoid a continued shutdown during the winter, when less work can be performed.  This scheduling reduces the overall length of time that the runway will have to be shut down over the course of the project.

Why is the Authority doing this work?

The work is required by FAA regulations and by the need to maintain the runway in a safe and efficient operating condition.

Why can't aircraft use the shorter, crosswind runway while the rehabilitation project is underway?

In addition to the parallel runways, the Airport has a cross wind runway (Runway 14/32) perpendicular to the other two, as shown on the runway diagram shown here.  However, Runway 14/32, at only 6380 feet, is much shorter than Runway 5L/23R, which is 9000 feet long.  Pilots and the FAA prefer for aircraft to use the longer runway to provide an extra margin of safety during take-offs and landings. Runway 14/32 is not only shorter, but it does not line up well with the prevailing winds, its use would involve a number of operational issues, and Runway 5L/23R has a superior system for landing aircraft during low visibility conditions.  

Why not reopen Runway 5R/23L at night or when the contractor is not at work?

During most of the construction schedule, the pavement and airfield lighting will be under construction, and the runway will not be in a condition for use during that time.  However, in the final four-week stage of the work referred to above, the Authority is requiring the contractor to remove equipment and construction debris at the end of each day.  The clearing of the runway will make the runway available for use at night in dry weather conditions (from approximately 9:00 p.m. to 7 a.m.).  During the final phase, the runway will still be closed during the day for completion of the work. 

What steps has the Authority taken to control noise during the runway project?

As explained in the “Frequently Asked Questions About Airport Noisehere, the Authority does not make the decisions about which runways aircraft use, their flight schedules or aircraft flight patterns.  These decisions are made by Air Traffic Control, the air carriers and the individual pilots.  For this reason, the Authority’s ability to control aircraft noise is limited.  However, the Authority has imposed an aggressive schedule on its contractor to complete the rehabilitation project as quickly as possible and thereby shorten the closure period.  Also, as explained above, the Authority has arranged for Runway 5R/23L to be re-opened at night during the final stage of the work, so the runway will be available for nighttime operations as soon as possible.  


Other steps that the Authority has taken to reduce aircraft noise exposure are discussed in “Frequently Asked Questions About Aircraft Noise” here.

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