Smoother, faster, safer operations at Tucson International are the goal of new runway construction there. Senator Mark Kelly toured the airport Tuesday to talk about what it takes to make that project happen.

Tucson International Airport is like an economic funnel but like an amplifier too. It gathers people and money into our region and then helps spread it around and now there is Federal money coming to make this place much safer.

Tucson International is a busy airport -sometimes too busywith large planes, small planes and military jets from the Air National Guard.

After smaller projects to make taxiways safer and prepare for more major construction, the Tucson Airport Authority is preparing to add a new runway to enhance capacity and improve safety.

Senator Mark Kelly views the project not just as a Senator, but as a former Navy pilot and Space Shuttle Astronaut. He says its a real concern if you have trouble on a takeoff or landing and your runways not much wider than a road.

And we now have a path forward to getting this runway built and operating. And when we do that, you know the expectation is there’ll be more commercial traffic out of Tucson International, which is great for the community and taxpayers and the public.

The airports getting 44 million dollars from the Bipartisan infrastructure bill Kelly helped pass. TIA may get another 200 million when Congress votes to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration.

Airport Authority CEO Danette Bewley says money that lands at the airport lifts more than the airport itself. It ripples out into the regional economy.

She says, As we sit here today, the annual economic impact of the Tucson airport authority to some international airport and Ryan Air Field is 8.3 billion each and every year. And from that there are generated about 42,000 jobs. And so the airport is a real critical element in that cycle of jobs and economic prosperity.

Passengers coming through TIA may not think much about safety but passenger John Nilsen says a wider runway sounds good to him.

I think when youre coming in on a turbulent landing like there is in Tucson, its kinda nice to know that you will have a wider runway rather than a narrow one so I think that. I dont think I was necessarily thinking of it, I just hope its there.

A medium sized jetliner can weigh 80 tons. It takes time to build a runway able to handle that for years on end so the new runway at TIA will probably take about four years to complete.