Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport Improvement and Renovations Program

Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL) had its busiest year in history in 2014 as 24.6 million passengers landed and took off from the Florida airport – a million-passenger increase from 2013. With activity on the rise, Broward County, which operates FLL, is already in the midst of a projected $2.3 billion overhaul that will improve on-time flights and make the airport more convenient for travelers visiting Florida’s many vacation destinations.

The project has already seen the addition of a new runway and progress continues on expanding terminal 4. The improvements are being handled by the Program Management Office, engineering design firm AECOM and the Broward County Aviation Department, which operates the airport. Parsons Transportation Group served as the project manager for the new runway and Turner Construction is the project manager for the terminal 4 expansion.

In 2009, Broward County awarded AECOM a 10-year contract to manage the airport expansion. No Broward County tax dollars are being spent on the project; instead, the FLL expansion is funded through a $250 million federal grant and passenger facility charges.

Growing Flights

The airport sits on the site of a former golf course that was abandoned after a hurricane decimated the land in 1926. The facility opened on May 1, 1929, as Merle Food Field, named for a World War I aviator. The U.S. Navy converted the airfield into Naval Air Station Fort Lauderdale in 1942 to train torpedo bombers. Future president George H.W. Bush was among the pilots to train at the base. The air station was decommissioned in 1946. Broward Country took control of the property in 1948 and assumed full ownership by 1953. The first scheduled airline service began three years later. Today, FLL offers flights from carriers such as JetBlue, Southwest, Spirit, Delta and United.

With 255,532 movements in 2013, FLL is the 34th most active airport in North America, according to the latest annual data from Airports Council International (ACI). But the airport has only gotten busier since construction began. According to ACI figures, FLL saw passenger traffic increase by 10.8 percent year-over-year in February 2015 and the airport ranked second among large hub airports, behind only Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in year-over-year growth.

Broward County does not directly attribute increasing passenger traffic to the ongoing airport expansion, according to press releases, but the opening of the second runway last September eliminated delays that had discouraged carriers from adding new flights in the past. Much of February’s growth resulted from the increase in international flights, which were up 23.7 percent compared to February 2014, according to Broward County, continuing the 15-month streak of double-digit growth since December 2013. Some of that traffic surge is the result of new airlines – including Azul, Copa, Norwegian, TAME and Volaris – that have been attracted to FLL in part because of that progress. 

A Larger Airport

The airport has long been constrained to one active runway, which has caused flight delays as FLL became a popular alternative to Orlando International Airport and Miami International Airport. Building a second, 8,000-foot runway was a major goal for the project because the new landing strip would allow FLL to increase traffic from 255,532 flights in 2013 up to 425,000.

The Broward Country Aviation Department reached that major milestone on Sept. 18 when an inbound JetBlue flight christened Runway 10R-28L. The landing was the culmination of more than two years of work on the strip, which was built over a two-lane airport service road, the six-lane U.S. Highway 1 and two tracks of the Florida East Coast Railroad. A six-cell tunnel structure system was built to place the railroad tracks and roads under the new tarmac and corresponding taxiways. More than 8 million cubic yards of embankment fill were used to elevate the runway by 60 feet on the east end. A hotel that sat in the runway’s path also had to be purchased and torn down. In addition to the runway, one of the two new taxiways became operational in May and the other is expected to open by fall.

Highways and train tracks were not the only things impacted by construction. To address the runway’s environmental impact, FLL contributed $10 million to fund mitigation in nearby West Lake Park. The funds went toward habitat restoration and shoreline protection at the 34-acre park that sits along Florida’s coast. Beginning in April 2010, crews planted 46,000 native plants and installed 4,700 feet of rip-rap crib along the shore. The mitigation project was completed in November 2011, but will require five years of habitat monitoring.

Other ongoing aspects of the project included relocating roadways, utilities and an existing airport surveillance radar facility. Each of the four terminals is adding new restaurants to satisfy visitors. Aluminum canopies have been installed on the upper level sidewalks between terminals 1, 2 and 3 and an additional canopy between terminals 3 and 4 will be completed this summer, according to the Sun Sentential newspaper.

Efforts to expand terminal 4 by approximately 35,000 square feet continue. The 10-gate Concourse H was demolished to make way for the new tarmac and aircraft parking positions were temporarily relocated. A new concourse wing is being built that will include 12 gates capable of handling independent international arrivals. To better accommodate those foreign travelers, in May the airport added six inspection stations to the Customs and Border Protection baggage claim area. A second federal inspection area will be built at the airport in 2017. 

With the expansion project nearing the homestretch, the Broward County Aviation Department and its construction partners have positioned FLL to accommodate future growth and better compete in the Florida travel market. 

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