HONG KONG — Airport Authority Hong Kong said Hong Kong International Airport will need to add a new runway — it's third — in order to meet future demands of cargo and passenger traffic.
But its proposal will cost taxpayers $17 billion, after factoring in inflation, making it the city's most expensive infrastructure project yet.
Critics are calling for a thorough environmental assessment before any decision is made, but time constraints will make such a report unlikely: the government will decide over the next few months whether to give the proposal the green light.
Hong Kong's airport has the most world's most air-cargo traffic and last year was third in terms of international air passenger flow, behind London and Paris.
The two existing runways are expected to be saturated in use by 2020 if a third one is not added. The new runway would be built on reclaimed land extending from the airport's location on Lantau Island.
To further bolster the proposal, the AAHK announced on Thursday that a survey of the public found three quarters of respondents support the three-runway plan — a "clear consensus," as the AAHK said in a statement.
Few question that the addition is necessary for Hong Kong to maintain its hub status. It is estimated that the project would also help bring in $117 billion in economic benefits over 50 years until 2061. These benefits include the creation of thousands of jobs.
But critics say overall benefits are diminished by environmental drawbacks.
The Civic Party, a liberal democratic party, has called for a detailed environmental assessment. Such a study would measure the effect that construction and dredging might have on surrounding waters (populated by rare dolphins that are cute to boot) as well as the level of noise pollution for residents in the area.
WWF in Hong Kong has questioned whether evolving carbon-tax rules might lower the expected demand for flights, and has expressed concern over increased greenhouse gases as a result of busier aviation traffic.
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