"Ft. Lauderdale International Airport Runway Expansion"
Michael Huerta, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
January 23, 2012

Fort Lauderdale International Airport Runway Expansion Groundbreaking

Thank you, Mr. Secretary.  It’s a pleasure to join you today to break ground for the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport runway expansion project. 

Here are the facts: Civil aviation contributes $1.3 trillion to our economy.  It makes up 5.2 percent of gross domestic product. It generates more than 10 million jobs, with earnings of nearly $400 billion. 

Airports like Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International are an essential part of the best aviation system in the world.  This happens to be one of the fastest growing airports in the country.  Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport now serves over 22 million passengers a year. It ranks 22nd in the United States in total passenger traffic, with more than 600 flights a day.  And it offers non-stop service to more than 60 U.S. cities, along with international service to Canada, the Bahamas, the Caribbean, Mexico, Latin American, and Europe.  

Now, as Secretary LaHood said, we Americans do big things—and that’s why we’re here to break ground on this big project.  When work is completed in 2014, a runway that is 5,275 feet long today will have been extended to 8,000 feet.  It will be wider, expanding from 100 feet wide to 150 feet wide.  And it will have been shifted and elevated above the Florida East Coast Railway and the US 1/Federal Highway.

As Secretary LaHood mentioned, the airport sponsor, Broward County, estimates that this will contribute more than $1 million per day to the local economy at the peak of construction in 2013.  It will also generate jobs – around 5,800 direct jobs, and another 4,000 indirect jobs.   

This kind of activity is good for Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.  It’s good for Broward County.  It’s good for the state of Florida.  And, by providing jobs and strengthening our nation’s aviation system, it’s good for America. 

So I’m delighted that we are supporting this effort through the FAA’s Airport Improvement Program.  We have issued a Letter of Intent to provide $250 million over 12 years in support of this $791 million project.

Big projects often face big challenges, and we’ve all had to work through a few of those on the way to today’s ground-breaking ceremony.  From today forward we will continue to work together until we watch the first airplane take off from the improved and expanded Runway 9R (“nine-right”) / 27L (“two-seven-left”).  Today, we focus on the future, but let me close with a thought about the history of Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport to illustrate how far it has come.

In the 1920s, a popular pioneer pilot named Merle Fogg operated the city’s first flying service from a spot not far from the site of today’s Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.  As told in the airport’s history:

His tiny airfield was tucked into a spit of land just north of Las Olas Boulevard, where it meets the Intracostal waterway. Its primitive wood hangar was visible from the road. Big bold letters over the door proclaimed, "Merle Fogg Flying Service." One of his young admirers remembered that Fogg's landing strip was only about a block long. "It was surprising that he could take off in that distance, but he could."

What a difference a few years can make.  Merle Fogg was a visionary who believed in a bright future for aviation.  He did not live to see it all happen, and imagine what he would have thought about a runway such as the one this airport will have when this project is finished.  But Fogg and his fellow Florida aviation pioneers paved the way to the kind of vibrant, growing airport we see today.  And the vision of those who brought this project to life is paving the way – literally – for aviation’s continued bright future.

Thank you for joining us today.  And congratulations on this important contribution to America’s air transportation system.