Meeting Air Travel Boom

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A new government study suggests many of the nation's airports won't be able to keep up with future air traffic demand unless changes are made.

The first-of-its-kind report calls on at least 23 airports to expand their capacity by the year 2020.

"This is a wakeup call to cities across America whose economies are taking off," said transportation secretary Norm Mineta. "Our hope is that cities will not neglect airports and airspace."

Many of the airports in need of expansion are in the fast-growing southern and southwestern United States, including Las Vegas, Albuquerque and Phoenix, but airports in more established cities like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles are cited as well.

Suggestions range from building additional runways and air traffic control towers to implementing new procedures to use air space more efficiently.

"We'd like to have, like an HOV lane on the road to have an express lane in the air to handle airplanes," Mineta said.

The study praises cities like Atlanta, which has begun building a fifth runway with an eye on the future. Federal dollars are helping to finance the project and officials say they're prepared to do the same for other communities.

Already, 20 new runway projects are planned at various airports over the next five years.