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St. Lawrence County legislators lend support to Ogdensburg airport expansion

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CANTON — Expansion of the Ogdensburg International Airport won the support of St. Lawrence County legislators Monday.

“This is a big deal,” said Legislative Chairman Jonathan S. Putney, D-Waddington. “This is exactly what we need.”

U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., visited Ogdensburg last week, promising his support to encourage the Federal Aviation Administration to approve a runway expansion of 1,200 feet, which would allow larger commercial planes.

The Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority is partnering with Allegiant Air, a low-cost carrier that wants to start direct service twice weekly from Ogdensburg to two unidentified Southern destinations as early as 2016. The airbus likely to be used would carry 177 passengers, OBPA Executive Director Wade A. Davis said.

Other airlines also might be lured to the Ogdensburg airport, which is planning to expand its terminal by one-third to accommodate a baggage claim and a 100-person waiting area, Mr. Davis said.

Additional parking for 500 to 600 vehicles is planned for a lot between the terminal and Route 812, Mr. Davis said.

“There’s going to be a tremendous regional focus,” he said.

Mr. Davis asked legislators for their support only in urging the FAA to approve the project, estimated at $12 million to $15 million.

“This is not an ask for money,” he said. “There’s no liability here.”

Expansion of the airport not only would benefit north country residents but is targeted at Canadians, who often fly from Plattsburgh or Niagara Falls because the flights are less expensive than those that originate from Canadian airports.

An article in the Ottawa Citizen last week compared prices of a flight to Fort Lauderdale. From Plattsburgh, the round-trip ticket was $357, compared with the $562 price flying out of Montreal.

The Ogdensburg expansion could pick up travelers who live between Montreal and Toronto, according to the article.

“The northern New York airport isn’t expecting a sudden spike in traffic from the 11,000 people who live in Ogdensburg,” author Mark Sutcliffe wrote. “Instead, they’re launching a direct competitive attack on Ottawa’s business, taking advantage of the fact that Ogdensburg’s airport is located less than 10 kilometres from the junction of Highways 401 and 416.”

Besides increasing cross-border traffic, expansion of the airport might mean more areas past the terminal on Route 812 have access to municipal water. A larger terminal would require sprinklers, which means needed water pressure, Mr. Davis said.

The OBPA has not settled on whether to achieve that through an agreement with the city of Ogdensburg or through a project with the Development Authority of the North Country, he said.

The runway expansion would also mean the realignment of Route 68 through a right-of-way swap with the state Department of Transportation. Legislator Daniel F. Parker, R-Potsdam, asked Mr. Davis to try to convince Massena officials, who have been trying to expand their own airport, that it makes sense to have two regional airports.

Mr. Davis said he thought the OBPA’s success would help Massena as well.

“A rising tide raises all boats,” he said.

There was no vocal opposition from legislators to support Ogdensburg’s expansion. Legislator Frederick S. Morrill, D-DeKalb, who is the OBPA’s deputy executive director, abstained.

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