The Houston Airport System is the fourth largest in the United States and already one of the busiest in the world. Expansion projects are in progress at both Hobby and Intercontinental with plans in place to grow both airports even more in the future. Airport System Director Rick Vacar says current traffic justifies the growth. "We're going to be 40 million passengers this year at Intercontinental and that's been growing at approximately 2 million passengers every 6 months. That's phenomenal. A good chunk of that has been growth in our international arena. Growth rates have averaged around 14 percent the last few years," he says.
Vacar's comments came at his annual "State of the Airports" address at a Greater Houston Partnership luncheon today. Along with the expansion comes growing pains, including environmental concerns, something Vacar says is the price of progress. "The environmental issues around airports have been a problem, not so much here in Texas, but they're growing. We just have to be very cognizant that we give people notice of what we're trying to do so that they can prepare. In fact we might even propose at some place that we work with developers to make sure that they don't put properties that are incompatible with airport operations anywhere near the airport," he says.
New runways at Intercontinental are part of a 2025 Master Plan that's already underway. With a budget of over $400 million a year, the Airport System employs 1500 workers.