For Immediate Release

November 19, 2008
Contact: Marcia Alexander-Adams or Allen Kenitzer/Mike Fergus (WA)
Phone: (202) 267-3488 and (425) 227-2004 (WA)


Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, which began commercial service in 1947, will open its third runway today. The runway is critical as the two existing runways are closely spaced, severely limiting arrival capacity in bad weather. The airport, owned and operated by the Port of Seattle, last opened a runway in 1973. The airport provides airline service to destinations throughout North America, Europe, and East Asia.  

Runway Benefits

  • The new runway will greatly reduce flight delays by keeping airport operations efficient in all types of weather. Currently, Seattle-Tacoma arrivals are confined to one arrival stream when there are low clouds — about 44 percent of the time — as the two existing runways are separated by just 800 feet.
  • With the new third runway, the airport will be able to accommodate two simultaneous staggered arrival streams in poor weather, making as many as eight additional on-time arrivals per hour possible.  

Runway Facts

  • The new runway, 16R/34L is 8,500 long, 150 wide and constructed of 17-inch thick concrete.
  • The two existing runways are separated by 800 feet.
  • The cost to build the runway is approximately $1.1 billion including approximately $301 million in AIP funding.

Runway Timeline

  • 1988 – Seattle-Tacoma recognized the need for an additional runway during bad weather
  • May 1997 – the FAA issued the environmental Record of Decision
  • April 1998 – construction of the parallel taxiway for the new runway began
  • May 2004 – construction of the runway
  • November 2008 – new runway opens

Airport Information

  • In 2007, the airport ranked 18th busiest in the U.S. with 15.4 million passenger boardings and 347,000 aircraft operations.
  • Seattle-Tacoma is situated on 2,500 acres of land.
  • In total, since 1982 the FAA has provided approximately $657million in Airport Improvement Program funds at Seattle-Tacoma with $515.4 million in discretionary funding and $141.8 million in entitlements.
  • Since August 1992, the FAA has authorized the Port of Seattle to collect and use approximately $1.162 billion in Passenger Facility Charges.

Other Interesting Information

  • The concrete used for the new runway is environmentally friendly. It contains fly ash, a by-product of coal burning, which can be used as a substitute for as much as 30 percent of the cement used in making concrete. Fly ash reduces the amount of carbon dioxide released during cement production. Fly ash also saves greenhouse gas emissions equal to those produced by 100 households in one year and reduces the amount of energy needed to make concrete.
  • The FAA has provided over $236 million for noise mitigation over the years to help the Port of Seattle purchase 1,400 properties and insulate more than 9,300 homes, and seven schools in the Highline School District.
  • The Port of Seattle purchased and removed more than 500 properties including 400 single-family homes, apartments, and commercial buildings.
  • To build a standard runway safety area, the Port of Seattle relocated a section of road at the north end of the airfield and 1,500 feet of Miller Creek at a cost of $3.5 million. Miller Creek is the home to Coho salmon, which is an endangered species.
  • In December 2009, a 1.7-mile extension of the Sound Transit’s light rail segment, now under construction, will open linking Seattle-Tacoma Airport to downtown Seattle. It will be a   33-minute ride from the airport to downtown Seattle.
  • A new rental car facility with 5,400 parking spaces will open in 2011 and free up 3,200 parking spaces in the current parking facility.