"We need to pour a lot of concrete," Secretary of Transportation Norm Mineta told the Aero Club of Washington today. "We must expand capacity by building more runways and building more airports."
Mineta also called on FAA and industry to maintain its primary focus on safety, "even though at times our focus seems to be on efficiency and squeezing the most out of the system." He noted that 70 percent of all air traffic control delays were due to weather.
The Transportation secretary conceded that because runways can't be built overnight, there might have to be some kind of "demand management" at the busiest airports. "But demand management is not a solution; it's an admission of our failure." He said that government and industry must provide the airport capacity the public wants and that "economic vitality requires."
To speed the construction of new runways, he called for states and the federal government to conduct simultaneous environmental impact studies.
Mineta said that, thanks to the AIR-21 legislation, there is now enough money to make the capital improvements needed to the air traffic control system and to improve airports.