What drives the need for two to four additional runways?

The need for additional runways is based on the projected future activity over the 2030 planning horizon, considering annual, peak month, and peak hour airfield demands. In defining the future demand, consideration is given to the characteristics of activity and aircraft and how those influence the projected activity at the Airport. 

The projected need for two to four additional runways reflects the forecasted growth in peak hour activity, as well as the historic wind and weather conditions at the Airport. Because runway use is governed by wind speed and direction, along with the navigational aids available on specific runway ends, the requirement for future runways gives consideration to these factors in determining options for meeting the forecasted demand. Consequently, runway development at DIA will provide additional capacity in crosswind conditions (defined as those wind conditions that require air traffic control to utilize alternative runways) and snow conditions, as well as increases the airfield capacity in the primary operating configuration. 

To provide context, by the end of the planning period DIA is projected to experience activity levels comparable to those currently at O’Hare and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airports. These airports encompass seven and five runways, respectively. O’Hare’s runway system, which is currently undergoing modification, will ultimately consist of six parallel runways providing the ability to simultaneously arrive to three independent runways during poor weather conditions and two crosswind runways. Likewise, Atlanta’s runway system consists of five parallel runways, allowing simultaneous arrivals to three independent runways in poor weather conditions, but without crosswind runway capability. Given the historic wind and weather conditions in Denver, influenced strongly by the Rocky Mountains, crosswind runway capability is critical to maintaining operations during strong winds, poor or marginal weather conditions, protecting the all-weather reliability of the airfield system. 

Future runway development will occur in response to actual growth in activity. A minimum of two additional runways is projected to meet demand under “low growth” conditions. However, if activity grows more aggressively, up to a total of four additional runways could be required to meet demand over the planning horizon.

Back to FAQs