The federal government is spending more money to improve Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and other airports that officials say will increase safety by reducing the number of times planes on the ground must taxi on active runways .
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg stood in front of a bulldozer and a mountain of dirt on Thursday as he announced that DFW, the nation’s second-busiest airport behind Atlanta, would receive an additional $29 million for a new “end-to-end traffic lane”.
DFW officials say when the work is completed in 2025, it will eliminate the need for planes to taxi on two of the airport’s main runways.
“Anytime an aircraft has to cross an active runway to get to where it’s going, that’s a source of risk,” Buttigieg told reporters.
Buttigieg said the most serious runway incursions — when planes or ground vehicles are too close together — now happen twice a month instead of once a month.
“We want to get that down to zero, and so there is also a paradigm shift of treating close calls with the same level of seriousness that we treat real incidents,” he said – refusing to even utter the word “accidents”.
Plans for the new taxiway were in the works before the recent spate of close calls between planes at airports across the country. And that won’t prevent incidents like the one in January at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, when a American airlines the crew took two wrong turns and crossed a runway in front of a departing aircraft Delta Airlines jet.
But Buttigieg and the Federal Aviation Administration are eager to show the public that they are responding to growing concerns about aviation safety.
Acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen hosted a “safety summit” of airline industry groups two weeks ago and asked for more data on recent close calls. Nolen followed that up with an alert to pilots and everyone in aviation — in effect, telling them to pay more attention to safety procedures.
At DFW Airport, the FAA has pledged to provide $180 million for a recently completed taxiway on the north side of the terminals and the new one on the south side. Officials say they will reduce the time passengers have to spend on planes traveling between gates and runways.
DFW is one of four airports Buttigieg is touring this week to tout infrastructure projects backed by the Biden administration. The others are Charlotte, North Carolina, where a similar thoroughfare is being built; Little Rock, Arkansas; and Oklahoma City.