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'All The More Jobs': Sen. John Hickenlooper Aims For More Federal Funding For DIA Projects

DENVER (CBS4) - A massive expansion of Denver International Airport's concourses is nearing completion. Some legislators hope the infrastructure building boom will continue.

"We're adding 39 new gates, that's a mid-sized airport in the United States," said Stu Williams, the Senior Vice President of Airport Expansion at DIA. "We're basically expanding out from the original construction that's now over 25 years old."

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On Wednesday, Sen. John Hickenlooper was looking at all the changes going on at the country's fifth busiest airport.

"We want to come out (of the pandemic) stronger than we were before. And a big part of that is getting our mobility, our transportation in gear, not just immediately but for the next 25 years, the next 50 years," Hickenlooper said.

One of the most significant additions in Concourse A is the addition of five gates for international arrivals.

"This part of this airport is going to have the potential to go to more international flights. United is planning to expand to 700 flights here. When they get to 700 flights, we become the international destination. Suddenly we get direct flights everywhere, all over the world. That will just create all the more jobs," Hickenlooper said. "These kinds of investments have an immediate pay off, but the long-term payoff is what is really exciting."

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He's using part of his May recess from Washington to spread the message around Colorado of how President Joe Biden's American Infrastructure Plan can help the Centennial State. On Thursday, a meeting is planned between many officials in Pueblo to discuss Front Range Passenger Rail.

"What President Biden is trying to do here is really turbo charge the economy, not just for one year or two years, but so it's a long economic growth period and growth for everybody," Hickenlooper said.

If the multi-trillion dollar plan is passed there's an expectation some funding could go toward a long-planned project at DIA, the seventh runway.

"Once we have this done and we begin to grow again then we need to get the fabled 7th runway. We've been talking about the seventh runway at DIA since well I became mayor in 2003 and we were talking about it then," Hickenlooper said.

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Airport officials know the runway is needed. The 39 added gates have already been leased to United and Southwest Airlines. Passengers should start filling most of the expanded areas by 2022.

"It shows the airline industry's interest in Denver. The fact that they want to fly here. Not just the front range economy, but also the ability to connect flights for where we're located in the country," Williams said.

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