HOUSTON (AP) — The Federal Aviation Administration has completed the redesign of the Houston region's highways in the sky, it announced Wednesday, the first of several national projects designed to save money, fuel and time while cutting pollution.
Houston is the first NextGen project to be completed and was one of 14 infrastructure projects nationwide selected by the Obama administration to be fast-tracked. The redesign of the region's freeways and exit ramps in the sky, partly through better use of GPS technology, is expected to reduce up to 648,000 nautical miles flown annually, saving up to 3 million gallons of fuel and reducing carbon emissions by as much as 31,000 metric tons.
"Since the start of the space program, Houston has always been a city with an eye on the future, a tradition that continues with the start of our NextGen program here today," U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement.
Houston's project was launched in January 2012 and was expected to take three years to complete, but by streamlining reviews, the FAA said it was able to wrap it up in 30 months.
"The NextGen Metroplex we are implementing today is an example for the entire country of the difference we can make with the help of the federal government and the way we get it done — six months ahead of schedule," he said.
The cities chosen for the national program have multiple airports and heavy traffic — including North Texas, Washington, D.C., northern California, Atlanta and Charlotte, North Carolina. Seattle was a forerunner to the national infrastructure program with its project Greener Skies, which was completed in 2013.
Among the 61 strategies identified by the FAA, pilots arriving at Houston's two airports will be able to almost idle their engines while landing "like sliding down a banister," the statement said. This will reduce fuel consumption and air emissions because until now planes had to level off to coordinate with air traffic controllers.
The FAA has also been able to identify more efficient routes between Houston and the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, cutting miles flown through a busy corridor.
The FAA worked with the National Air Traffic Controllers Associated, United Airlines, Southwest Airlines and the Houston Airport System to complete the project.
"This redesigned airspace allows us to take full advantage of technology we already have on our aircraft, while simultaneously reducing fuel burn and emissions," United Airlines vice chairman and chief revenue officer Jim Compton said in a statement.
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