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Port Authority OKs runway, taxiway upgrades at Kennedy

A plan to spend $68 million in order to save $116 million each year just might fly within the friendly skies.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has approved a series of projects which officials said would improve safety and efficiency at John F. Kennedy and Newark International airports while saving at least $116 million annually.

Port Authority officials said projects, costing $68 million, would make runways and taxiways more efficient, speed up movement of planes on the ground and permit greater use of the largest passenger and freight planes at both airports.

The Port Authority Board of Commissioners took the action July 24, two weeks after the agency's Flight Delay Task Force demanded that federal officials overhaul what it called a 1950s-era traffic control system.

The Task Force had previously produced a list of more than 100 recommendations it said would help reduce delays, increase safety and improve customer service at New York City airports.

The Port Authority opposes the Federal Aviation Administration's plan to limit flight capacity by implementing an auction system in which airlines would bid on slots at airports. The Port Authority said such a system would serve only as an additional tax on passengers by increasing fares by an estimated 12 percent.

Anthony Coscia, chairman of the Port Authority, said, "the investments we are announcing demonstrate our ongoing and firm commitment to do what we can to improve the flying experience for our customers."

The measures approved by the Port Authority board include:

Installation of a ground surveillance system at Kennedy that works like a GPS to pinpoint the exact location of all planes at the airport and is used to manage faster movement of planes between terminals and runways, saving more than $10 million annually.

Widening of 32 taxiway intersections at Newark to increase available taxi routes for larger planes like the Boeing 777 and Airbus A340-600, and creating more flexibility for air controllers to schedule departures and cut taxi times for all planes.

Extension of taxiways 'YA' and 'FB' at Kennedy to improve departure procedures on runway '22R' cutting takeoff times by up to 2-1/2 minutes for every takeoff, resulting in an estimated $82 million in annual savings.

Construction of taxiway 'KA' hold pad at Kennedy to create more efficient queuing and sequence procedures for runway '4L' departures, reducing departures delays by about one minute per operation for an annual savings of nearly $24 million.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 136

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