- The Washington Times - Friday, November 21, 2008

Washington area in nearly half a century Thursday.

An Los Angeles was the first plane to take off from the 9,400-foot-long stretch of 17-inch-thick concrete pavement.

“There’s nothing a pilot likes more than to touch down or take off on a new slab of concrete,” said acting Bobby Sturgell, a former commercial pilot.

The region’s economy will also welcome the new concrete.

“The runway is very positive, very important, particularly in the way different areas are competing for economic development,” said George Mason University Center for Regional Analysis.

“A lot of regions on the East Coast, such as Philadelphia, are constrained by their inability to expand their airports. This gives us a leg up to compete with them,” Mr. McClain said.

The new runway, which cost $356 million to build, is the fourth at Dulles and the first since the Northern Virginia airport began operating in 1962.

In 2007, Dulles was the 16th busiest airport in the country with nearly 420,000 flight operations. The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that the extra runway can accommodate 100,000 flights a year.

Nearly 12 million passengers boarded aircraft at Dulles last year. The new runway could handle an additional 3 million passengers per year.

The airport’s long-term strategy calls for a fifth runway. Its construction has not been scheduled, but the nearly 13,000 acres that Dulles occupies in Fairfax and Loudoun counties will be sufficient for expansion well into the future.

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