Denver International Airport - DIA

Denver International Airport.

Airport officials requested $83.5 million from the Denver City Council Wednesday to fund the initial planning for adding a seventh runway at Denver International Airport.

The council business committee unanimously approved the three requested contracts, passing them on to the full council for a final vote in the coming weeks.

If approved, the contracts would provide $15 million to HNTB Corporation, $46 million to Jacobs Engineering Group, Inc. and $22.5 million to AECOM Technical Services, Inc. for consultation services through October 2026.

“With our anticipated growth for this airport, it’s prudent for us to begin planning for the seventh runway,” said DIA CEO Phil Washington.

Washington said the process of planning, developing and building a runway can take between eight and 10 years to complete. Currently, DIA has six runways but has the land capacity to hold 12 runways.

Based on the airport’s passenger traffic and travel projections, DIA may require a seventh runway in as soon as six years, said Michael Cloud, director of civil infrastructure for the airport.

By the end of 2021, DIA is projected to have approximately 640,000 aircraft operations, defined as landings or takeoffs. At 770,000 operations, the airport would require more than six runways to meet capacity, which DIA is expected to reach in 2027.

These projections will likely be influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic; however, despite large drops in travel, DIA was still ranked the third-busiest airport in the U.S. for 2020.

“This is why it’s so critical to start this process,” Cloud said.

If approved, these contracts would complete phase one of the runway project: conducting an environmental review of adding a seventh runway and completing up to 30% of the runway design over the next four to five years.

In order to move on to phase two — final design and construction — airport officials would have to return to the council for further approval. Completing phase two would cost an additional $1.2 billion, Cloud estimates.

Under the proposed contracts, HNTB would prepare environmental information for the runway project to comply with environmental laws and regulations. Jacobs Engineering Group would provide design consultation and AECOM would handle project management.

If phase one and phase two are approved by the council, airport officials estimate the seventh runway would be completed by the end of 2029.