Elmira’s Win Not Likely to Hurt Other Airports’ Chances
October 1, 2016
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  • Airports in Binghamton and Ithaca, looking to keep pace with with Elmira’s recently announced $58 million expansion, are wondering whether they will get a share of the $120 million remaining for distribution to New York’s regional airfields.

     Directors at the Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport and Greater Binghamton Airport remain hopeful their applications to the Upstate Airport Economic Development and Revitalization competition will still be funded following the approval of a $40 million grant to Elmira.

     Elmira Corning was one of two airports granted funding in the first round. The Greater Rochester International Airport received $39.8 million from the program, administered by the New York State Department of Transportation.

     State officials have yet to determine how many more rounds of funding there will be or how many more airports could benefit from the remaining pool of funds, said Department of Transportation spokesman Gary Holmes. A second-round announcement is expected in December.

     The department received 26 applications from 16 airports, Holmes said.

     Among them were the Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport — about 40 miles northeast of Elmira — and the Greater Binghamton Airport, about 60 miles east.

     The Elmira Corning Regional Airport boarded more passengers in 2015 than Ithaca or Binghamton, according to an application for funding that cites passenger growth as one of the main reasons for expanding the terminal. Elmira reported 155,866 passenger boardings in 2015, according to Federal Aviation Administration data — about 9,100 less than the Ithaca and Binghamton airports combined.

     Elmira generally had between 80,000 and 120,000 boardings a year from 1960, when the terminal opened, until 2000, according to the application. In the early 2000s, that number started to increase because of what the application’s narrative calls “regional economic factors, and Elmira’s success in capturing new service and drawing passengers from a wider service area.”

     From 2000 to 2015, the annual number of boardings increased by roughly 46,800, according to the narrative. In addition, projections included in the airport’s master plan update show that the airport could reach 200,000 boardings a year in the next 15 years.

     Aiding Elmira’s growth was the 2008 addition of low-cost carrier Allegiant, with two weekly flights on 160-passenger jets to the Orlando-Sanford, Florida, airport. One year later, the Las Vegas, Nevada-based airline added an additional two weekly flights to St. Petersburg, Florida. The no-frills carrier tends to attract passengers to Elmira from a wide geographic area because of its rock-bottom fares.

     Elmira also is served by American Airlines and Delta Airlines. United ended service earlier this year.

     Meanwhile, Binghamton will be left with only American and Delta after the departure of United in November. Ithaca is served by American, United and Delta.

     At all three airports, Delta flies to its Detroit hub; American to its Philadelphia hub; and United to Newark.

     Directors at the Ithaca and Binghamton airports remain hopeful that funding will be available for their respective projects.

     The Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport’s proposal includes a terminal overhaul that takes international visitors into account, including the addition of a customs facility, Airport Manager Mike Hall told The Ithaca Journal shortly after Elmira’s award was announced.

     Relocation of a fuel facility and creation of a logistics park also were included in Ithaca’s application.

     The Greater Binghamton Airport requested funding for the construction of a new general aviation terminal to serve air crews and passengers from corporate, charter and private aircraft, said Dave Hickling, the facility’s commissioner of aviation. The $16.3 million project would bring that facility up to modern standards, he said.

     Proposed work includes demolition of the existing terminal and construction of a new building, as well as an apron expansion, relocation of an existing fuel farm, and addition of self-service fuel pumps.

     Hickling said the airport completed a complete passenger terminal renovation in 2000 and a terminal improvement project in 2014.

     “After seeing Elmira receive a large grant from the state, we are very hopeful that the Greater Binghamton Airport’s project will be chosen for one of the remaining awards,” he said.

    Holmes said applications are being evaluated based on criteria including innovative design, customer experience enhancements, job creation, and economic development in and around the airport. Elmira’s selection doesn’t leave Ithaca and Binghamton out of the running for remaining funding rounds, he said.

    “Just because Elmira was selected, it does not preclude other regional airports from consideration,” he added.

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