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After 16-Month Nightmare, It’s Opening Day at Airport

<i> Associated Press</i>

Denver’s new airport opened to passenger traffic Tuesday with planes and travelers moving smoothly and without so much as one chewed-up suitcase.

The first arrivals at the $4.9-billion Denver International Airport got roses, posters and buttons. Thousands of people wandered the building, the nation’s first new big-city airport in 21 years.

“It’s nice, really nice,” said Eric Needleman, a University of Colorado student from Los Angeles. “For all the money they spent, it better be nice.”

The airport opened 16 months late and $3.2 billion over budget. Besides the cost overruns, it had problems with an automated baggage system and a dozen investigations into allegedly shoddy construction and fraudulent bond sales. Some people joked that DIA stands for “Doesn’t Include Airplanes.”

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At Denver’s old Stapleton Airport 17 miles away, parking garages and runways fell silent. The runways at the abandoned airport were painted over with white X’s to stop pilots from landing there by habit.

As light snow fell, two United flights--one leaving and one arriving--officially opened DIA to passengers just after daybreak. Later, the airport logged the first triple simultaneous landing at any commercial U.S. airport, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.


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