SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – Arrival and departure capacity are about to double at San Francisco International Airport, when it reopens two runways on Sunday that have been closed since May.

The closure took place to perform federally mandated Runway Safety Area improvements at SFO. Runways 1L and 1R are sandwiched between Highway 101 and the Bay and there wasn’t enough room to meet new federal safety standards, like the airport’s other two runways.

160,000 tons of crushed concrete contained in rubber squares have been installed to form a cushion.

“We’re currently on Runway 1 Left and we’re standing on a bed of what is called EMAS, that stands for Engineered Material Arresting System,” said San Francisco International Airport spokesperson Doug Yakel. “It’s essentially a runaway truck ramp for aircraft. The idea behind runway safety areas is to give aircraft an additional margin of safety, and this is really the last line of defense for any aircraft that overran a runway.”

If a plane had to suddenly abort a takeoff or had trouble landing, it would roll onto the slightly squishy surface, and the wheels would sink, stopping the plane.

More than 40 airports across the country are implementing these enhancements. The runways reopen on August 10, a month ahead of schedule.


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