ALCOA, Tenn. (WATE) — Planes traveling to McGhee Tyson Airport will be able to carry more fuel and passengers – which in turn will allow airlines to travel to more locations – now after a more than decadelong runway project has been completed.

East Tennessee dignitaries stood on the end of runway 5L-23R on Friday marking the occasion before the first two flights landed.

“The opening of this new runway is a significant accomplishment for our airport system and allows us to build upon our $2.1 billion economic impact to the community as well,” said Patrick Wilson, president of the Metropolitan Knoxville Airport Authority. “The length of the new runway allows aircraft the opportunity to carry more fuel and passengers for longer distances, which is critical for future development.”

The $134 million expansion is the largest construction project in the airport’s 84-year history.

As a part of the project to lengthen the runway to 10,000 feet, more than 1 million cubic yards of earth were moved; a city road was rerouted; a storm drain system was replaced; a gas line was rerouted; 5,000 new LED lights were installed, and more.

The project was funded by multiple partners, including the Federal Aviation Administration, the Tennessee Department of Transportation, the Air National Guard Bureau, and the Metropolitan Knoxville Airport Authority. 

“This runway reconstruction is the largest of several projects included in the Airfield Modernization Plan, which is aimed at improving the capabilities and convenience of McGhee Tyson Airport for decades to come,” said Brian Simmons, chairman of the MKAA board of commissioners. “Each project plays a significant role in our ability to remain competitive for air service, bring new jobs to our region through tenant recruitment, and provide passengers with a quality experience when flying into and out of the airport.”

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