THE NUTTER administration yesterday announced an agreement with the Philadelphia International Airport's suburban neighbors that could settle four lawsuits, save the homes of 300 Tinicum Township residents and allow a $6.4 billion infrastructure plan for the airport to move forward.

The settlement, which would end an eight-year dispute among the city, the township, Delaware County and the Interboro School District, calls on the airport to pay $1.86 million annually to the other three entities, plus a onetime payment of $500,000.

The city would make an additional annual $1 million payment to Tinicum for 20 years or more, as well as a $391,000 fee to lease properties on Hog Island Road.

The capital program, projected to take about 15 years and aimed at reducing Philadelphia's high rate of delayed flights, calls for extending the airport's two main runways and building a new one.

US Airways and American Airlines, the commercial airlines that fund much of the airport's budget through use agreements with the city, have voiced skepticism about the need for a new runway. The reason Philadelphia's is the fifth-most-delayed airport in the country is due to air traffic in the busy Northeast, not runway capacity, they say.

But Nutter is intent on moving the project forward, saying in a statement yesterday that "Philadelphia is one of America's premier cities, and as such we need a premier airport."

Under the agreement - which requires Federal Aviation Administration approval - the city would pay Tinicum $5 million for a 8.6-acre plot to build the runway.

It also would scratch part of the plan that required the airport to obtain 72 homes in Tinicum and would end four court cases brought by the suburban communities to oppose airport expansion and its impact on local tax revenues.

U.S. Reps. Bob Brady, D-Philadelphia, and Pat Meehan, R-Delaware County, helped facilitate the deal.