Airport Will Rip Out Two Runways
To save on costs, Milwaukee Mitchell plans to downsize to three-runway airport.
Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport is planning to remove two runways in the coming years.
The airport has five runways, but has decided that cutting back to a three-runway system will “right-size” the facility. Airport officials have estimated that Milwaukee Mitchell can “efficiently accommodate” demand with a three runway system through at least 2040. These two runways were targeted for removal as part of an annual update to the airport’s long-term plan.
“In 2022, these runways handled less than 0.5% of our total traffic,” noted Harold Mester, spokesperson for the airport. “The other three runways handled more than 99.5% of all arrivals and departures.”
The project is at an early stage, as the airport looks for a contractor to conduct an environmental assessment. But the runways could be ripped out as early as 2024.
“This change will not have any effect on airlines, which will continue to use the airport’s two longest runways,” Mester said
The smaller of the two runways planned for removal (1R/19L) is oriented north to south. The other runway is longer and roughly oriented northwest to southeast (13/31). Only the sections between the intersections with other runways will be removed.
The project will remove more than 150,000 square yards of pavement from the airfield, which will be replaced with turf. Additionally, according to a document for prospective contractors, “future decommissioning of two runways facilitates future development to meet identified needs without requiring the acquisition of additional property.”
Once removed, “The taxiway network will be modified to enhance aircraft circulation, increase efficiency as the runways are rightsized, meet updated FAA standards, and connect to future facilities,” the document notes. The removal of the longer runway will also “facilitate development in the northwest area of the airport.”
Runways are expensive infrastructure, and Mester said removing these two will reduce the airport’s long-term maintenance costs. With proper maintenance, runways can last decades. The airport paid $10.6 million in 2021 to resurface one of its primary runways, but it had not been resurfaced in 40 years.
UPDATE: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the intersections of the various runways.