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Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority plans $10 million airport expansion

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The Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority is planning a $10 million expansion at Ogdensburg International Airport that officials say could bring in 40,000 additional air passengers a year.

The project is part of a long-term plan to attract larger air service carriers, thereby increasing the number of passengers flying out of Ogdensburg. OBPA officials hope to attract Canadian travelers who are increasingly turning to U.S. airports for cheaper fares.

The airport’s runway will be extended by 1,200 feet, and the terminal will be upgraded and hooked up to city water service, pending an agreement with the city that OBPA Executive Director Wade A. Davis said he expects will be discussed with city officials Jan. 6.

“This project, when successful, will make a substantial and long-term difference in the economy of Northern New York,” Mr. Davis said Friday.

A 2012 report by the Canadian Airports Council said Canadians made 4.8 million one-way trips to U.S. airports in 2011, up 15 percent from the year before, to take advantage of lower air fares. OBPA Deputy Executive Director and Chief Financial Officer Frederick S. Morrill said that number is expected to exceed 5 million this year.

“The opportunity to grow the airport will make Ogdensburg a destination, and that creates opportunities for tourism industry growth and job creation,” Mr. Morrill said.

An online search for airfares Friday placed a round-trip flight from Ottawa, Ontario, to Miami, Fla., starting at $472. Round-trip fares from Syracuse to Miami started at $409.

Mr. Davis said accommodating larger airplanes is the key to Ogdensburg’s tapping into the Canadian traveler exodus. The airport is currently served through the federally subsidized Essential Air Service program by Cape Air, which operates a fleet of nine-seat Cessna 402s.

He said OBPA has no agreement with a larger air carrier at this point, although he said the Authority is looking into low-cost carrier options. A news release announcing the project said its initial phase will take two years to complete “and will result in nearly 40,000 outbound passengers annually on a large commercial aircraft to warmer climates.”

Last week the OBPA Board of Directors purchased 8.13 acres on Route 812 near the airport from the Ogdensburg Volunteer Rescue Squad. The land will accommodate a city water line to the air terminal. If OBPA can forge an agreement with the city next month to hook into the city’s water system, work to install the line can begin in the spring.

Mr. Davis said OBPA has been working closely with city officials to move the project forward.

“This project didn’t just happen. Rather it is the culmination of proactive efforts by the Authority and its partners to take on risk to attract interested airlines by promoting direct access to the fourth largest Canadian air market,” Mr. Davis said in the news release. “The city of Ogdensburg is a key partner in the airport expansion process.”

An agreement with the city is not the only bureaucratic hurdle the authority will have to overcome to make the expansion happen. The runway extension will require the relocation of a section of Route 68 near the current end of the runway, and that will require approval and funding from the state Department of Transportation.

The airport plans also need approval from the Federal Aviation Administration.

“There are many steps along the way that could stop this process at any time,” OBPA Chairman Samuel J. LaMacchia said.

Still, Mr. LaMacchia said the runway extension will be necessary for the airport to remain competitive in the future.

“The future of the air industry is to accommodate planes that can land on a longer runway,” he said. “We’re looking toward the future.”

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