FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - It is a $791 million makeover that officials say will thrust the Ft. Lauderdale - Hollywood International airport into the future.
After a long drawn out battle with nearby residents, the controversial south runway is moving forward.
The construction project is so big Broward County Mayor John Rodstrom didn't use a golden shovel for the groundbreaking, he used a big backhoe.
With a price tag of $791 million, the south runway extension is the largest project in the airport's history. About 22 million passengers a year use the airport, and that number is expected to grow thanks, in part, to the cruise industry.
"Now these mega cruise liners have 6,000 passengers on a cruise ship, and the only way they get here, generally, is they come through our airport," Rodstrom said.
New animation of the south runway provided by the airport shows it is not only long at 8,000 feet but impressive as it crosses over the Florida East Coast railway and U.S. 1.
The extended runway will allow planes to use two runways simultaneously, increasing the airport's capacity by as much as 30 percent.
"We are 20th in passenger traffic at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International airport now, and because we are a growing tourist attraction, the opportunity to land more flights a day and also make sure people can get in and out of the airport and take off to their destinations and land is really critical," said U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
Officials said it will also create between 6,000 and 10,000 jobs.
"This project will put thousands of people to work building the runway, but it also becomes part of the economic engine for the airport," said Secretary of Transportation Roy LaHood.
In order to elevate the runway 62 feet, crews need to bring in 7 million cubic yards of fill -- enough to fill the Louisiana Super Dome one and a half times.
It will also require 535,000 square yards of concrete, 90,000 tons of asphalt, 90 miles of cable and the relocation of 600 trees.
But it all hasn't come without some sacrifice. Neighbors nearby that opposed it will be compensated and have their homes soundproofed. When the runway opens in September 2014, they hope the mitigation efforts will pay off.
"The airport runway will change their lives, and so we have tried to do everything in our power to keep that neighborhood intact," Rodstrom said.
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