New master plan in works at NF airport

January 9, 2012 Updated Jan 9, 2012 at 7:37 AM EDT

By WKBW News
By Business First by James Fink, Buffalo Business First Reporter

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January 9, 2012 Updated Jan 9, 2012 at 7:37 AM EDT

With a triple-digit increase in passenger traffic, the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority has embarked a new master plan for the fast-growing Niagara Falls International Airport.

The master plan comes as another local group, the Niagara Falls International Airport Stakeholders Group, is hoping to secure $1 million to help market and promote the facility.

Funding for the $1.4 million master plan is coming from three sources: $970,000 has been allocated from Gov. Cuomo's Regional Economic Development Council initiative, the NFTA is kicking in $336,000, and the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission has agreed to donate $100,000 towards the effort. The master plan study is set to begin this year.

The master plan will consider both scheduled passenger flights along with air cargo and freight operations.

Kim Minkel, NFTA executive director, said she believes the $100,000 bridge commission grant helped sway the opinion of the regional economic development council to support the master plan funding request.

"It clearly illustrates the link between [airport] development and the Niagara region's future economic success." Minkel said.

The bridge commission executive team agrees.

"Facilitating the transportation of bi-national cargo is aligned with the mission of the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission, which is to 'build, maintain and operate Niagara River border crossings to facilitate commerce and the movement of goods and people in a safe and efficient manner,' " said a statement attributed to Lew Holloway, Niagara Falls Bridge Commission general manager and Patrick Brown, commission chairman.

The bridge commission operates the Lewiston-Queenston, Rainbow and NEXUS-only Whirlpool bridges.

In the first 11 months of 2011, 87,942 outbound passengers took flights out of the Niagara Falls airport, which is on Niagara Falls Boulevard in the Town of Wheatfield. The passenger represents a 190-percent increase from the same period in 2010, according to NFTA statistics.

"As you know, the [airport] has experienced impressive growth since the new passenger terminal opened in 2009," said Henry Sloma, NFTA interim chairman.

NFTA officials said a new master plan is needed to determine what improvements may be needed to secure more scheduled passenger flights and commercial traffic. The airport, with airlines like Direct Air that offer routes to popular locations in the Carolinas and Florida, is especially popular with Canadian travelers.

Canadians account for more than 75 percent of the airport's outbound passenger count.

Earlier this week, the Niagara Falls International Airport Stakeholders Group announced a goal of $1 million to market the airport in 2012. The group expects to include representation and revenue from Niagara County, the City of Niagara Falls, the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency, Niagara USA Chamber, the Niagara Tourism and Convention Corp., the Seneca Niagara Casino & Hotel, Fashion Outlets Mall and the Niagara Falls Hotel-Motel Association, among others.

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