Agreements expected to be made today will allow Atlantic City International Airport to be managed by a New York City-based transportation authority already responsible for the operation of five airports in New York and New Jersey
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the South Jersey Transportation Authority will vote on resolutions allowing officials to negotiate an operating agreement for Atlantic City International. The resolutions will pave the way for the Port Authority to take over airport operations, but length and financial terms of the arrangement have yet to be decided, according to a source with knowledge of the agreement. The information was confirmed by two other sources.
In September, the Port Authority, which operates three major New York area airports — Kennedy, LaGuardia, and Newark — opted to spend as much as $3 million to study the possibility of taking over Atlantic City International with plans to reduce air traffic congestion in that region. The Port Authority also operates Teterboro Airport in New Jersey and Stewart Airport in New York.
Legislation enacted in 2007 allowed the Port Authority to establish an airport outside of its jurisdiction in New York and New Jersey. Within months, Stewart Airport near Newburgh, N.Y., fell under Port Authority control, but a New Jersey airport has yet to be selected. Atlantic City International's operation in Egg Harbor Township will be the New Jersey airport affected under the agreements expected to be approved today, the source said.
The Port Authority meets at 1:30 p.m. in New York City. SJTA meets at 3 p.m. at the Farley service plaza on the Atlantic City Expressway. SJTA spokesman Kevin Rehmann confirmed that the authority's meeting time was changed to accommodate the attendance of state Department of Transportation Commissioner James Simpson, but he would not comment further.
The Port Authority's feasibility study is also expected to be released today.
Gov. Chris Christie has said that expanding the services at Atlantic City International is key to revitalizing Atlantic City as a resort destination. The same legislation that created the Atlantic City Tourism District contains provisions for the dividing of proceeds that would result from a potential sale of the airport.
Some officials have argued that an operator such as the Port Authority with highly traveled airports will be able to leverage its relationships to attract more carriers to Atlantic City International, which is currently served solely by Spirit Airlines.
An analysis by The Press of Atlantic City last year, however, found that air traffic declined nearly 55 percent at Stewart International Airport in five years after the Port Authority took over operations, while five of the airport’s eight carriers left. Atlantic City saw a 24 percent increase in the same timeframe.
Some SJTA board members have expressed concern about turning over control of the South Jersey operation to an authority based outside of the state. Others have questioned what the Port Authority's involvement might mean for the future of the South Jersey Transportation Authority, which also operates the Atlantic City Expressway. For more than a decade, lawmakers have discussed merging SJTA with the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, which operates the Garden State Parkway and the New Jersey Turnpike.
SJTA has approximately 285 employees with union workers in Local 193 and Local 196.
A $25 million expansion project adding three new gates, an expanded baggage-claim area and capability for international flights opened at the airport last year.
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