The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has hired a consultant, LeighFisher, to evaluate the feasibility of assuming control of another airport in New Jersey, including Atlantic City International Airport.
“The feasibility study will include a comprehensive evaluation in areas such as financial, management, facilities and infrastructure needs,” said Port Authority spokesman Scott Ladd in a Monday email. “LeighFisher is a leading consulting firm in the aviation sector.”
Board members at the South Jersey Transportation Authority, which owns and operates the airport and the Atlantic City Expressway, have expressed frustration recently that there has been talk of a possible takeover but no one from Port Authority or its consultants have reached out to SJTA.
State Senate President Steve Sweeney announced a push to have the authority buy the facility last March, as a way to increase the use of the large but underutilized airport.
The airport is at the center of Atlantic County’s plans to diversify its economy away from over-reliance on the casino industry and hopes to bring aviation maintenance operations to the airport as well as aviation research firms and more commercial passenger and charter flights.
The county funded the construction of the first building in a planned National Aviation Research and Technology Park this year, on land provided by the Federal Aviation Administration next to the airport.
The Port Authority runs the major New York City airports of LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy; Newark Liberty International Airport; and Stewart International Airport in Orange County, New York. Sweeney has advocated the Port Authority purchase the Atlantic City airport and potentially use it for some flights, maintenance and other support services.
In August, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Executive Director Kevin O’Toole said the agency is evaluating information on buying Atlantic City International Airport and other New Jersey aviation facilities after receiving two consultants’ proposals.
“This has been pending a long time and nothing has been going on,” said former board Chairman Jeffery April at last week’s SJTA meeting. “We had a contract in the past with the Port Authority hired to manage the airport and nothing happened.”
April said then that officials pushing to make the takeover happen should encourage the Port Authority to either act or end the suspense.
Board member James “Sonny” McCullough, the former mayor of Egg Harbor Township, where the airport is located, said he too is tired of the implication that the SJTA has not been doing all that is possible to expand services and ridership at the airport.