Urumqi's International Airport kicked off a 2.8 billion yuan (350 million U.S. dollars) expansion project on Wednesday, enabling it to handle three times as many passengers as it does now.
When the expansion is completed in 2008, the 76-year old airport will be capable of handling 16.35 million passengers annually, up from the current 5.13 million. It will be able to handle 275,000 tons of cargo and 155,000 aircraft a year.
The Xinjiang airport has great potential to become an air transport hub in central Asia as the number of passengers is growing by more than a million a year, said Yang Yuanyuan, director of the China General Administration of Civil Aviation (CAAC).
CAAC, the Xinjiang regional government and South China Airlines are joint investors in the project, said Yang.
The expansion and renovation project, in northwest China's oil and gas rich Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, includes the construction 48,000 square meters of new stores, nearly 106,000 square meters of terminal buildings, and an upgrade of other infrastructure facilities, said Yang.
China also plans to build 12 highways by 2010 that will link Xinjiang with Central Asia in order to boost trade.