A tentative agreement ending eight years of legal wrangling over a $6.4 billion expansion of the Philadelphia International Airport has been reached that allows for that growth without demolishing numerous houses in Tinicum, Delaware County.

More than 300 residents in Tinicum Township have been in limbo since previous airport expansion plans called for the acquisition of 72 houses to allow for the improvements to the busy airport under a federal plan called the Capacity Enhancement Program (CEP).

They will be able to remain in their homes under the proposal announced today. It must go before federal aviation planners now, officials said.

The agreement also would restart payments from airport revenues to Delaware County that stopped in 2007, officials said. The proposal calls for expanding the airport onto undeveloped parcels of land, leaving the existing neighborhood east of Fourth Avenue intact, a news release said.

The roots of the agreement date to 2002 when the U.S. Department of Transportation identified the airport as one of 13 high-priority projects nationwide.

The massive airport expansion will occur in phases over a 12-to-15 year period. Two-thirds of the airport is in Tinicum Township. Plans call for an automated people mover and a new ground transportation center within the next 15 years. It is designed to make the airport more competitive by reducing delays and adding capacity and services.

"Tinicum Township is home to most of Philadelphia International Airport and our residents have been patient while we have worked to form a relationship with the Airport and its governing bodies that is mutually beneficial," said Thomas J. Giancristoforo Jr., president of Tinicum Township's board of commissioners. "We believe the proposed terms provide for that. The airport will be able to grow while the interests of the Tinicum Township residents, whose daily lives are directly impacted by the airport and its operations, will still be protected."

The airport is one of the nation's busiest. It served more than 30 million passengers last year and accommodated more than 400,000 takeoffs and landings.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.