By Steve Tawa

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A signing ceremony was held today in Terminal ‘A’ of Philadelphia International Airport, resolving years of friction  between the city, which owns and operates the airport, and its municipal neighbors.

The source of the friction was a multibillion-dollar airport expansion project the city wants to undertake.

The City of Philadelphia, Tinicum Township, Delaware County, and the Interboro School District said they have resolved both land acquisition issues and tax litigation over airport revenues.

John McBlain, a Delaware County councilman and former county solicitor, notes two-thirds of the airport is situated in Tinicum Township.

“It saves our residential neighborhood in Tinicum Township, which is our first priority,” McBlain (standing at far right in photo) said of the agreement.

Tom Giancristoforo, president of the Tinicum Township Board of Commissioners (seated at far left), says planners reconfigured the expansion without the need to acquire 72 homes in Tinicum and relocate 300 residents.

“They didn’t need the homes,” he said today.  “They could do the project without taking the homes.”

A handful of businesses will be displaced instead.

The agreement paves the way for what the Federal Aviation Administration calls a “capacity enhancement program” (CEP) over 15 years, which includes constructing one new runway and extending two existing runways to attract planes which are capable of more distant flights, including to and from the Far East.

Airport CEO Mark Gale (standing, second from right) says the project also involves some long-term upgrades including modernizing the terminals, an automated people-mover system, and new rental car and cargo facilities to compete with airports domestically and internationally.

“Without Tinicum Township and Delaware County at the table, negotiating with us on how to do development in their county, then the CEP would not go anywhere fast,” Gale says.   “This was a critical element to that.”

Philadelphia International Airport is the 15th busiest airport in the world, and tenth busiest in the US.