Denver International Airport in Colorado, US, was completed in 1995. Since its opening, the airport has continued to grow, with a sixth runway brought into service in September 2003. The airport received a FAA Environmental Stewardship Award for 2007.

Located 23 miles north-east of downtown Denver, on a plot measuring 34,000 acres (53 square miles), Denver airport is one of the largest airports in the world. It is the tenth-busiest facility in world and the fifth busiest in the US. It was also the fifth-busiest airport in the world by aircraft movements with 614,169 movements.

“In 2007, Denver International Airport was the 11th-busiest airport in the world in terms of passenger traffic.”

The airport has one main terminal, Jeppesen (which has a tension fabric roof as the main architectural feature), totalling more than 1.5 million square feet. Including the three airside concourses, there is over six million square feet of public space. Concourses A, B and C have a total of 89 gates.

Looking to the future, Denver International Airport has the potential for an additional terminal and two further concourses, which will allow it to serve up to 100 million passengers a year. Passenger traffic in 2010 reached 52 million, which marked an all-time passenger traffic record in the facility’s history.

Master plan

A master plan was formulated by the airport setting out short-term plans (2015-20) and some long-term plans (2030-35).
The short-term plans include adding a seventh runway, expanding the concourse with over 20 gates, additional international passenger processing and gates, expanding the people mover capacity, baggage system improvements and increasing passenger security screening.

The long-term plans include increasing the number of runways to ten, adding 100 gates and concourse D and E, taxiway improvements, more aircraft deicing positions, doubling rental car spaces and adding a fourth lane on Pena Boulevard.

Airport expansion projects

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and TSA awarded a $37m grant for expansion projects at Denver International Airport. These funds are being used for the master plan projects. Approximately $11.6m will go towards rehabilitating runway 8/26, and over $1.7m will be used to improve the taxiway system surrounding Jeppesen Terminal. About $8.7m will be used to upgrade runway 16L/34R. About $15m from the TSA grant will be spent on improving the airport’s baggage screening system.

“Denver International is one of the largest airports in the world.”

A project aimed at expanding the automated guideway transit system started in March 2011. It is a 14-month project and will be completed by May 2012.

A new retail location, the Retail Merchandising Unit, opened in September 2011, providing easy shopping for travellers passing through the airport.

Construction of the Pena Boulevard road lane to connect with Denver International Airport began in July 2011. The lane will be built in small parts. The first part being constructed is from 64th Avenue to just before Tower Road.


Denver International Airport has six runways. There are four north-south (17R/35L, 17L/35R, 16R/34L and 16L/34R) and two east-west (8/26 and 7/25). The airfield has room for 12 runways.

Five of the runways are 12,000ft long and 150ft wide. The sixth is 16,000ft long and 200ft wide. Each runway approach is equipped with instrument landing systems. The southern approaches to the four parallel north-south runways are rated category III-b, which allows auto-landing even in the lowest visibility conditions.

Three of the north-south parallel runways are at least 4,300ft apart, the minimum required by the FAA for simultaneous landings in bad weather. Dual or triple streams of aircraft can land simultaneously in these conditions, reducing system delays. No runway crosses another, minimising the chance of aircraft traffic jams or collisions.

Denver airport has six deicing pads and each can accommodate up to six aircraft at the same time. Planes rarely have to queue after deicing because four of the pads are located close to north-south runways 16L/34R and 16R/34L. Aircraft can proceed to take off shortly after leaving a pad. The deicing fluids are collected and piped into storage tanks for recycling.

Denver sixth runway

Runway 16R/34L – Denver’s much publicised recent addition – is the longest commercial runway in North America. At 16,000ft long and 200ft wide, it can accommodate the new generation of massive planes, including the Airbus A380.

The sixth runway project was part of the airport’s original master plan to provide a balanced airfield operation. This $166m north-south runway allows larger airplanes and planes with heavier loads or longer trans-oceanic distances to safely take off and land in Denver’s high-altitude environment.

The three-mile-long runway was paved in just 41 days. To achieve this, the contractor installed approximately 4,100yd³ of pavement each day. The runway has 3.2 million square feet of concrete surface areas using 168,000yd3 of concrete.

“Runway 16R/34L was the winner of the 2004 Project Achievement Award .”

In July 2004, the runway was the winner of the 2004 Project Achievement Award by the Construction Management Association of America. The award category is for public projects valued at more than $100m.

This accolade was followed, in January 2005, by the announcement that the American Concrete Pavement Association had named the sixth runway as winner of an Excellence on Concrete Pavement award.

The general contractor for runway 16R/34L was Interstate Highway Construction. The designer and engineer on the project was CH2M HILL. SURVCON provided precision surveying for the runway and its associated taxiways.

Car rental area canopy project

Mid-2003 saw the start of a two-year canopy project. The $38m cost was paid by the airport’s rental car companies (Advantage, Alamo/National, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, Hertz, Payless and Thrifty) and increased the size of the areas where rental car shuttle buses pick up and drop off customers.

The project also helps protect commercial vehicle users from bad weather. A translucent Teflon-coated fabric was used as the ‘canopy’ over level 5 surrounding the terminal building. This material is the same as used for the terminal’s signature roof.

The project’s general contractor was PCL Construction Services. The canopy was designed by architect Leo A Daly.

Denver terminal expansion

Jeppesen Terminal was named after Elrey Jeppesen, a pioneer of aviation safety. The terminal is divided into east and west terminals for arrivals and departures. The terminal is then connected to three concourses, A, B and C, which have a total of 138 gates.

The concourses are reached by a passenger bridge or by using an underground transit system. In December 2006, it was announced that concourse C was to be expanded by eight further gates at a cost of $160m, and will mostly benefit Southwest Airlines.

“Runway 16R/34L is the longest commercial runway in North America.”

Concourse B was expanded by the addition of two concourses (fingers) on the east side forming a new regional jet concourse. United Airlines now operates from concourse B.

Plans have also been put forward to extend Jeppesen Terminal towards the south of the airport property. This will involve increasing ticket counters and providing space for a new commuter rail station for the FasTracks line.

There may also be a new regional jet concourse constructed as an extension to concourse A, but this is still in the planning stage.

Solar array

In August 2008, a 2MW solar energy system was installed at Denver International Airport. The solar photovoltaic system, which spans 7.5 acres at the airport’s entrance, will generate over three million kilowatt hours of clean electricity a year.

The solar project, which is one of the largest solar installations at any public airport in the US, is a sign of Denver’s commitment to environmental sustainability by reducing carbon emissions into the atmosphere by more than 6.3 million pounds each year.

Designed and installed by WorldWater, the system uses more than 9,200 Sharp solar panels. The new ground-mounted photovoltaic solar arrays employ a single-axis tracking system that follows the sun during the day for greater efficiency and energy production.