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Plans for a third, new runway at Salt Lake City International Airport are moving along and the Airport Authority Board on Wednesday approved spending $9 million for consultants to handle project design and other services.

Board members voted unanimously to hire Howard Needles Tammen and Bergendoff (HNTB) of Alexandria, Va., to provide design services, oversee construction and manage the project at a cost of about $4.6 million.The board allocated $4.4 million to hire local consultants to provide other services under HNTB's supervision.

"We've always tried, to the extent possible, to involve local consultants," said Airport Director Louis Miller. "With a project as sophisticated as a runway, there are only a few companies in the country that can do this.

HNTB possesses "extensive experience" in runway design and has done well in working with the airport in preliminary phases of work on the runway, he said.

The proposed 12,000-foot runway is estimated to cost $107 million. Funding is expected to come from the federal government and airport revenues.

The runway would be located more than one mile west of the existing west runway.

The project has encountered opposition from environmentalists who question whether it will disturb waterfowl, as well as other people who have concerns about noise, airport safety and the impact on Airport No. 2 in West Jordan.

However, airport officials say the new runway is needed to reduce delays. Currently, planes cannot land and take off simultaneously in poor weather because the existing two runways are too close together. The delays can last up to several hours, causing passenger inconvenience, extra fuel and maintenance costs for airlines, and adding to air pollution.

The Federal Aviation Administration and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are preparing an environmental impact statement that is expected to be released Aug. 15.