SAN FRANCISCO -- In a rare piece of good news for air travelers, San Francisco International Airport announced Thursday it will complete a runway safety project four weeks ahead of schedule, bringing an end to longer than usual delays at the airport.

The airport's two northeast-facing runways will reopen Sunday, bringing the facility back to full capacity in time for Labor Day. Runways 1L and 1R have been closed since May 17, when the airport began the last phase of a federally mandated initiative to add buffer zones on all four of its runways that will help stop airplanes that might overshoot them.

The project caused flight delays that averaged 15 minutes during good weather, said airport spokesman Doug Yakel. Most delays occurred during peak weekday hours from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

"A lot of work went into minimizing the impact this would have on customers," said Yakel, noting that crews worked 20 hours a day, six days a week.

Runways 1L and 1R typically handle departures. While they have been closed, all departing and arriving flights have used the airport's northwest-facing runways, 28L and 28R, which were upgraded last year in the project's first phase.

Crews installed safety zones at the ends of runways 1L and 1R that are roughly 500 feet long and 250 feet wide, said Yakel. The rectangular buffer zones are made of honeycombed concrete that is designed to collapse under the weight of a commercial jetliner in the event it veers from the tarmac.


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The entire project wound up costing roughly $223 million, Yakel said. Two-thirds of the funding came from the federal government, he said, and the rest came from revenue bonds issued by the airport.

The early finish of construction isn't just a boon for airline passengers. It will come as a relief for many Daly City residents who live and work below the paths of outbound flights. Noisy air traffic over Daly City increased significantly during the project.

Contact Aaron Kinney at 650-348-4357. Follow him at Twitter.com/kinneytimes.