This post has been updated.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) attended the groundbreaking ceremony for a $24 million expansion of Tompkins Regional Airport on Tuesday, which could help Cornellians from far off lands beyond the reaches of Westchester or New Jersey get a more direct route to campus.
Cuomo announced the expansion in May, including $14.2 million in grant funding from New York State to aid the project, which aims to turn the small regional airport into an economic engine by increasing access to international travelers and improving current facilities and capacity.
“Ithaca deserves an airport that will fuel the economic growth and fuel the perception and reality that you are the place for the future,” Cuomo said in May. “The new airport will offer a world-class passenger experience.”
Shovels in hand, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Svante Myrick ’09, Legislature Chair Martha Robertson and Airport Director Mike Hall were among the officials who ceremonially broke ground for the project, kicking off the first of a three-phase construction planned to finish by the end of 2019. The airport will remain open during the renovations, according to the Ithaca Voice.
The project includes expansions of the ticket counter, security facilities, baggage claim and dining area, as well as six new gates and three new boarding bridges, approximately doubling the size of the airport.
Other improvements for fliers’ experience in the airport like high-speed wifi and more charging ports are also slated for construction. According to Cuomo’s statement announcing the project, the airport will be run entirely on solar and energy costs will be offset by geothermal heating.
The new facilities will also include a 5,000 square-foot federal customs facility, which Cuomo and Myrick said would boost Ithaca’s economy and open the growing city to international business and investment, The Sun previously reported. Currently, international travelers must route through airports elsewhere to clear customs.
“Airports are the new front door to the economy,” Cuomo said in May, according to Ithaca.com, pointing out that many people conduct entire business trips without ever leaving the airport.
On October 4, Tompkins Regional Airport started a direct non-stop route to D.C.’s Washington International Dulles Airport and invested about $25,000 in It’s Your Business: Welcoming China to Ithaca, an initiative to develop facilities for tourism and business from Asia, according to airport director Mike Hall.
In an interview with The Sun, Hall noted that Cornell’s position as a global institution and its “need for global connectivity to the airport.”
The plan also includes transplanting the Department of Transportation’s facility from its current location on the Cayuga Waterfront to a spot adjacent to the airport, opening up a plot assessed at $43 million in a valuable development corridor, according to FlyIthaca.com
Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul said the project would help make Ithaca a hub for international travel and improve the passenger experience.
“This transformational project will provide the region with a 21st century international gateway that will not only enhance the passenger travel experience, but also encourage new investments in Ithaca and beyond to keep the Southern Tier Soaring,” Hochul said according to a press release.