Airport Master Plan Frequently Asked Questions

How are noise impacts being considered in the Master Plan?

The Master Plan Study is evaluating the noise impacts associated with the expanded airfield (up to four additional runways) by running the FAA’s Integrated Noise Model to predict the 2030 noise contours (end of the planning horizon). The noise contours generated from this analysis will be compared to those contours published in the Intergovernmental Agreement with Adams County to determine consequences of the projected growth and ultimately expanded airfield through the end of the planning horizon. 

Subsequent detailed environmental review of any and all future runways will be undertaken at the time that any runway is implemented. This review would also explore the noise impacts associated with runway development, as well as the potential impacts on other environmental categories (e.g. wetlands, emissions, wildlife, etc.).

Return to Top

What is the capacity of the AGTS

The AGTS is currently operating near capacity given the existing system configuration and controls. DEN has the capacity for an extension of the AGTS track to accommodate an additional train on the system while meeting current headways, travel times, and levels of service to AGTS users.

The Master Plan Study is exploring options for expansion of the AGTS to support future terminal improvements and growth. Because the AGTS system is an integral part of the terminal, options and solutions must be developed in parallel with the terminal concepts. 

Given that the AGTS at DEN is a “must-ride” system, the Master Plan Study is exploring options for enhancing the operational redundancy and contingency aspects of the system to ensure that the Airport can remain open and operational in the event of an unexpected outage of the AGTS.

Return to Top

How does the current economic situation affect the Master Plan?

The current economic situation is affecting the demand for air travel and consequently, the amount of activity at DIA as well as many other airports. To date, DIA has experienced less of a reduction in scheduled flight activity than many other airports in the US, reflecting the strength of the region and local area. 

The FAA is predicting recovery in national air travel in 2010. DIA is anticipated to mirror if not exceed this projected recovery, making it critical that the Airport be positioned to accommodate this future growth. Given that DIA was designed for 50 million annual passengers and experienced over 51 million in 2008, there is little available capacity in the system to absorb continued growth, even if that growth develops at a slower rate than originally predicted. 

Because the Master Plan Study relies on activity growth and other factors to trigger the need for improvements or expansions (as opposed to linking improvements to specific calendar timeframes), a drop in the demand for air travel or a reduced growth rate translates into a potential deferral in the timing of specific improvements but does not alter the ultimate need for these improvements. 

DIA recognizes that the current economic conditions are affecting many of the Airport’s tenants and stakeholders and has prioritized financial feasibility in decision-making regarding future facilities and projects. However, given the time involved in implementing projects (including planning, design, environmental and agency review, and construction), the Airport is also focused on ensuring that the Airport is prepared to accommodate projected growth in activity when it materializes. This requires long range planning and decision-making to make sure DIA can support the community and the region by having a plan in place to make incremental improvements and expansions as actual demand triggers the need.

Return to Top

Are the airlines being encouraged to spread out their peaked bank throughout the day?

Airline schedule decisions reflect the consideration of numerous factors, one of the more important being the general arrival and departure times preferred by travelers. Additionally, airline operating characteristics (including hubbing) and available aircraft fleet influence scheduling. While some airlines operate a generally sustained and even schedule throughout the course of the day, other airlines exhibit more pronounced arrival and departure peaks in activity corresponding to Denver’s role as a hub in a larger route network. 

The Master Plan Study is a planning effort focused on projecting long range growth and defining the physical and operational improvements necessary to accommodate that growth. In that context, projections of future activity at DIA including airline scheduling of operations have not been arbitrarily constrained in the analyses. 

However, the projections of scheduled airline activity include increases in both the duration and magnitude of the projected activity peaks, yielding still pronounced but broader schedule peaks. With some ability to increase aircraft size (measured by seating capacity) to meet peak activity, airlines with the flexibility to deploy larger aircraft to serve DIA can absorb a level of activity growth before increasing the number of aircraft operations. However, not all airlines operate an aircraft fleet with this flexibility. In these cases, an increase in aircraft operations eventually occurs. Considering fleet, facility (gates), and overall route network integration, future activity growth will occur through all periods of the day, including the periods between peak arrival and departure banks. However, the overall operational characteristics (peaking) of the airline activity at DIA are not predicted to change significantly over the planning horizon given that the Airport largely serves as an airline hub.

Return to Top

Why is the Airport constructing a hotel on-site? What other sources of non-airline revenue is the Airport exploring?

An on-Airport hotel is an appropriate amenity for a world class airport like DIA. The development of a hotel that is integrated with the terminal facilities at DIA will serve the needs of the traveling public and the business community. The planned hotel includes a meeting/business center to maximize the opportunities for large scale meetings and conferences. Several other on-airport hotels have been successfully developed in recent years, including ones at Detroit, Orlando, and Dallas-Fort Worth. 

Other opportunities to enhance non-airline revenue at DIA are limited by the Intergovernmental Agreement with Adams County; however, within the limits of that agreement, DIA is exploring activities and opportunities for increasing revenue without increasing the burden on airlines operating at the Airport. Although no decisions have been made, potential opportunities include retail stores, a dog kennel, and a golf course.

Return to Top

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.

Return to Top

Does the Master Plan include the possibility of passenger rail service to DIA, as envisioned by the Rocky Mountain Rail Authority?

Although there is limited specific information currently available, the Master Plan Update will protect a corridor for future passenger rail service that enters the terminal building in an alignment parallel to the FasTracks commuter rail line. As more detailed system information becomes available, the Airport will periodically review and potentially update or refine the on-Airport passenger rail concept allowance to ensure that the ability for this system to serve DIA in the future is preserved. 

For more information on the study being completed by the Rocky Mountain Rail Authority, please visit:

Return to Top

What is the status of a train to the Airport from Downtown? Would there be multiple stops at the Airport to access other facilities besides the terminal (e.g. rental cars)?

The FasTracks East Corridor rail line, linking DIA with downtown Denver, is currently under environmental review. Design is projected to begin in 2009, with construction starting in 2011, and completion of the FasTracks East Corridor is scheduled for 2015. In addition to the rail stop planned at the terminal building, current planning includes one rail stop adjacent to DIA property near 40th Avenue and Peña Boulevard. There are currently no stops planned to serve Airport facilities, however, the Airport is considering the ultimate development of a landside people mover system that would link rental car, parking and other landside facilities.

The FasTracks system will include a station in the airport terminal building that will be planned to accommodate up to six rail tracks. Two tracks will be used to support FasTracks activity. Additionally, two tracks will be reserved for a potential future landside people mover, and an additional two tracks will be reserved to accommodate potential future high speed rail service at the Airport. For more information on FasTracks and the East Corridor, please visit or

Return to Top

How do I comment on the Master Plan Update?

Public and stakeholder comment and input to the study are welcome.  Comments on the Master Plan Update can be e-mailed to  All comments will be reviewed and considered.  In addition, the public will have the opportunity to provide comment during upcoming Public Involvement meetings.  The first of these is anticipated to occur in early 2009.

Return to Top

Who will typically pay for projects recommended in the Master Plan?

Projects recommended in the Master Plan would generally be funded from a variety of sources including FAA Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grants, airport funds, passenger facility charges, and general airport revenue bonds.  Improvement projects at Denver International Airport are not funded with taxpayer dollars.

Return to Top

Who owns and operates Denver International Airport?

The City and County of Denver owns and operates Denver International Airport. Under the city charter, the management, operation and control of Denver International Airport is delegated to the city’s Department of Aviation.  The Manager of the Department of Aviation is appointed by and reports directly to the Mayor of Denver.

Return to Top

What are the components of an Airport Master Plan?

The Airport Master Plan process is guided by the FAA and ultimately results in projections of future passenger and aviation activity growth and preparation of an Airport Layout Plan (ALP).

The major analytical elements of the DIA Master Plan Update include the following:

  • Inventory of Existing Airport Conditions
  • Aviation Activity Forecasts
  • Demand/Capacity Analysis
  • Facility Requirements and Identification of Issues
  • Definition and Evaluation of Airport Development Alternatives
  • Environmental Overview of Proposed Development
  • Airport Layout Plan
  • Capital Improvement Program

Master Plan Stakeholder Process

The Master Plan also includes a Public Involvement process that will provide updates on the study's progress to the public, airport and community stakeholders, allowing an opportunity for public and stakeholder input and a way to ask questions and provide comment.

Below is a project schedule that shows the major project elements.  The Master Plan Update is scheduled for completion in early 2010.

Master Plan Schedule

The overall deliverables of Denver’s master planning process include the following:

  • Technical Report:  this document summarizes the results of the analyses conducted during the study process
  • Executive Summary Report:  this is a concise summary of the analysis and study efforts that brings together pertinent facts, conclusions, recommendations, and graphics
  • Airport Layout Plan Drawing Set:  this graphical depiction of the proposed development documented in the master plan study is typically produced as a separate set of full-sized drawings
  • Web site:  this is a public access web page, part of the airport’s Web site, that provides a mechanism for communicating the master plan study process and status to the public and stakeholders
Return to Top

Who pays for the Master Plan Study?

As with almost all Master Plan studies, Denver’s Master Plan Update is receiving federal grant funding.  The Master Plan Update is funded in part by a grant from the FAA, with the remainder of the study funded by Denver International Airport.  No taxpayer monies are involved to pay for the Master Plan Study.

Return to Top

Who is preparing the Master Plan Update?

In October 2006, the City and County of Denver tasked Ricondo & Associates, Inc. (R&A) with developing the Master Plan Update Study for Denver International Airport.  With offices in Denver, R&A is a full-service aviation consulting firm that provides facilities and operations planning, environmental planning, and financial planning to airports and the aviation industry.  R&A is assisted in conducting the study by a team of ten subconsultants, nine of them with offices in the Denver area.  More information about R&A is available on the company’s Web site:


Additional Master Plan Update team members supporting R&A include:

  • All Traffic Data Services, Inc.
  • Catalyst Consulting
  • Denver City Reprographics
  • Hensel Phelps Construction Co.
  • Kimley-Horn and Associates, Inc.
  • Lea+Elliott, Inc.
  • Logplan L.L.C.
  • Synergy Consultants, Inc
  • Two Hundred, Inc.
  • Wong Strauch Architects, P.C.
Return to Top

What is an Airport Layout Plan (ALP)?

An Airport Layout Plan (ALP) is a scaled, graphical presentation of the existing and future airport facilities, their location on the airport campus, and pertinent clearance and dimensional information.  The ALP is a major product of the Master Plan Update which contains information used by the FAA to program future funding assistance and to monitor the airport’s compliance with design standards and grant assurances.  It also allows the FAA to anticipate budgetary and procedural needs, and to protect the airspace required for facility or aircraft approach procedure improvements.  An up-to-date FAA-approved ALP that ensures the safety, utility, and efficiency of the Airport is required for the Airport to receive financial assistance under the terms of the Airport and Airway Improvement Act of 1982 (AIP) and to be able to receive specific Passenger Facility Charge funding.

An ALP, which is a public document that serves as a record of present and future aeronautical requirements, is a blueprint for airport development by which the airport sponsor – in this case, the sponsor is the City and County of Denver – can ensure that development remains consistent with airport design standards and safety requirements, as well as airport and community land use plans.

FAA regulations dictate that an ALP remains current for a five-year period, or longer, unless major changes at the airport are made or (?) planned.  Denver’s strong growth and the necessary improvements to accommodate continued growth in activity warrant an update of Denver’s ALP.

Return to Top

DIA is a fairly new airport, why is the airport completing a Master Plan Update?

The FAA recommends reexamination of the Master Plan every five to 10 years.  Denver International Airport has deferred that reexamination in recent  years due to the events of Sept. 11, the possibility of airline bankruptcy and other issues affecting the aviation industry as a whole.  DIA’s original Master Plan, which was completed in the late 1980’s at the time when airport construction initially started, projected that the newly built facility could support approximately 50 million passengers per year.  In 2007, the airport handled 49.9 million passengers, and in 2008, passenger traffic growth hit the 50-million mark . DIA has consistently experienced strong growth in recent years, even as many U.S. airports saw a leveling or in some cases a reduction in activity.

Additionally, DIA  was originally designed to handle a significantly higher number / proportion of connecting passengers than it currently  / actually handles..  The proportional increase in originating and terminating passengers has imposed more demand on airport facilities than would have the same increase in the number of connecting passengers, since  “local” passengers utilize roadways, parking facilities, airline ticketing and baggage facilities, security checkpoints, and other facilities that connecting passengers do not.

In addition, the past few years have seen many significant changes in the aviation industry including increased security measures and processes, an evolution in airline check-in procedures, baggage screening technology and regulations, evolution of airline fleets, and changes in airline and aviation industry economics.  These changes have resulted in different and typically more intensive demands on airport facilities.  The FAA recommends that airports review and update their Master Plan every five to 10 years or as necessary in order to ensure future planning accounts for these changes.  The Master Plan Study will consider these factors in order to develop an expansion plan for DIA that meets projected demand, both in magnitude and characteristics, while providing flexibility for the Airport to respond to future changes.

Return to Top

What is an Airport Master Plan?

As defined by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), an airport master plan is a comprehensive study of an airport and usually describes the short-, medium-, and long-term development plans to meet future aviation demand.  Airport master plans serve as facility development guides for a long-range planning horizon (usually 20 to 25 years), and summarize an airport’s strategy for the development of the airport.

The goal of a master plan is to provide the framework needed to guide future airport development that will cost-effectively satisfy aviation demand, while considering potential environmental and socioeconomic impacts.  Master Plans also provide the airport with the tools to react to uncertainties by examining key trends in the aviation industry, such as changing airline business models, improvements in technology, and local/regional economics that could affect airport activity.  Master plans vary in the level of detail and complexity depending on the size, function, issues and challenges of the airports under study.

FAA Advisory Circular 150/5070-6B Airport Master Plans provides guidance for the preparation of airport master plans.

 Read the FAA Advisory Circular (Adobe PDF)

Specific objectives of the Master Plan Update put forth by Denver International Airport (DIA) include the following:

  • Maintain and ensure the safety and security of the Airport
  • Emphasize customer service and satisfaction
  • Plan for phased, incremental development that meets foreseeable aviation demands and maintains flexibility for change
  • Maintain practical and affordable airline costs per passenger
  • Meet sustainability and environmental requirements
Return to Top