Charlotte Douglas International Airport plans to start laying the groundwork toward building a fifth runway at a cost of $160 million, according to the Charlotte Observer. The 12,000-foot runway would lessen noise impacts, and allow for nonstop flights to “Europe or the Pacific rim” at some point, aviation director Jerry Orr said last week.

Orr said the airport plans to begin environmental studies next year, with the goal of starting construction in 2014. The longest runway is now 10,000 feet long.

In 2011, Charlotte Douglas set a new record with more than 39 million passengers, up 2% over 2010. It is the world’s sixth-busiest airport in arrivals and departures, according to airport statistics.

Plans for the new runway are part of planned extensive renovations that are under way. Last October, the airport embarked on a $511 million multi-year capital program that is being paid for with a combination of bond financing, federal funds and other revenues.

Projects include additional road, terminal and baggage system improvements, new gates and additional valet parking, a new international terminal to accommodate future growth, a new control tower and the fifth runway. The airport is operated by the city of Charlotte.

Last fall, the city issued $110.35 million of general airport revenue bonds and $60.3 million of special facility revenue bonds as partial funding for projects that are under construction, including a new 7,000-space general parking and consolidated car rental facility, expansion of the international terminal, a new entrance road, and relocation of a large intermodal center to the airport from downtown to enhance the transfer of freight between planes, trucks and trains.

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