- Associated Press - Thursday, September 18, 2014

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) - Officials say a new runway opening at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport should help reduce flight delays and bring more tourists to South Florida.

The $719 million, 8,000-foot runway is set to open Thursday.

Broward County Aviation Department spokesman Greg Meyer tells The Miami Herald (https://hrld.us/YUFk0B ) that the runway is the first phase of an expansion project that aims to ease crowding and update terminals for the 23.5 million passengers who visit the airport every year.

The airport handles about 260,000 flights annually. The new runway should allow the airport to raise that number up to 425,000 flights a year.

Meyer says JetBlue plans on increasing its number of flights by up to 100 per day, and Southwest Airlines intends to build a concourse specifically for international flights.

After a lawsuit, the aviation department and Broward County agreed to add hurricane windows and doors and central air conditioning units to 1,800 nearby homes impacted by noise from the runway, Meyer said.

The rest of the airport’s $2.3 billion expansion includes upgrades to restrooms and concessions, as well as an overhaul of one terminal to make room for more international flights. That project is expected to be completed in two phases by 2017.

The runway opening will have a significant effect on tourism in the Fort Lauderdale area even though the airport’s expansion is far from complete, said Nicki Grossman, president and CEO of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau.

“Every one of those airplanes that’s bringing us a visitor creates additional economic impact,” she said. “People that fly in tend to spend more than people who drive in. The more opportunity we give those airplanes to land, the greener our valley gets.”

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Information from: The Miami Herald, https://www.herald.com

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