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Ogdensburg Bridge & Port Authority director, Wade Davis, and Assemblywoman Addie Russell show U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer the plans for extending the runway, indicated in blue on the diagram. Photo: David Sommerstein.
Ogdensburg Bridge & Port Authority director, Wade Davis, and Assemblywoman Addie Russell show U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer the plans for extending the runway, indicated in blue on the diagram. Photo: David Sommerstein.

Schumer: Ogdensburg airport ok "waiting on someone's desk"

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The city of Ogdensburg is getting ready to take off into a bigger air travel market. The Ogdensburg airport signed a contract last month with Allegiant Air to fly 170-passenger jet planes on and off of its runway. Officials expect the new service will attract tens of thousands of Canadian passengers and become a new economic driver.

The problem is...the runway is too short.

The airport has submitted a $12-15 million plan to build a longer runway. But it's stalled in Washington. Yesterday, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer came in person to say he's going to expedite the process.

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Reported by

David Sommerstein
Reporter/ Producer

The Ogdensburg airport wants to make it clear that it’s ready to step up its game. And what better way to signal that desire than to park a shiny yellow airport-grade snow plow and a gleaming new emergency truck – each the size of a single-wide trailer – right at the front door.

"We have the capability to clear and maintain the runway, including the extended runway, and what better way to demonstrate it than with two new pieces of equipment," says Wade Davis, executive director of the Ogdensburg Bridge & Port Authority, which owns the airport.

The airport sending the message it's ready to step it up, if the Feds grant approval. Photo: David Sommerstein.
The airport sending the message it's ready to step it up, if the Feds grant approval. Photo: David Sommerstein.
Inside the terminal where a few dozen people, mostly county politicians, await the Senator, Davis points out a diagram of the runway. 5200 feet are indicated in white, the part that’s out there right now. Highlighted in blue is the 1200 foot extension that will allow an Allegiant airplane to land. Right at the end of that blue part is State Route 68, which runs between Ogdensburg and Canton.

"Route 68 will move by about 250 feet from its present location," says davis, "and that will allow an Airbus A320 aircraft to land there with approximately 170+ passengers."

Davis says this whole plan is ready – a $1 million commitment from the Bridge & Port Authority, a $1 million investment from Allegiant Air to nearly double the size of the terminal. What’s missing is signoff from the Federal Aviation Administration.

"Ogdensburg’s application is currently sitting on a desk in Washington, said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, who swooped in from Washington, DC, landing at this airport, to promise to use his influence to get that application off that desk, "to urge the FAA to swiftly, without delay, approve this runway extension, so these new Allegiant planes can take flight now."

Schumer never fails to deliver humor, along with his assistance, at events like these. Photo: David Sommerstein.
Schumer never fails to deliver humor, along with his assistance, at events like these. Photo: David Sommerstein.
Right now, Cape Air is the only airline to service Ogdensburg, with three daily flights to Albany and then Boston.

Assemblywoman Addie Russell says adding Allegiant will help boost the regional economy.

"We’re going to have a new way to bring people to this area, and let them see the beauty and all that we have to offer," said Russell. "It’s going to help tourism, but I also believe it’s going to help other traditional types of businesses here in the community."

Wade Davis says Allegiant wants to attract Canadian travelers down Highway 416 from Ottawa. The Conference Board of Canada says five million Canadians cross the border to fly from U.S. airports each year.

Just 35 miles down the St. Lawrence River, Massena has been trying to lure Canadians to its airport. Town officials there have criticized the Ogdensburg expansion because the Massena runway can already handle larger jets.

Asked about the intra-county airport tensions, Schumer took a diplomatic approach.

"People forget St. Lawrence County has over 100,000 people. It’s also our largest county geographically. And so to have an airport here and one in Massena is a good thing," said Schumer. He added: "A little competition will never hurt."

The Bridge & Port Authority’s Wade Davis says the best case scenario is that Allegiant planes will be able to take off and land in Ogdensburg in November 2016. He says the Authority has a program to attract even more air carriers with incentives.

Meanwhile, Allegiant still hasn’t said where it will fly from Ogdensburg. Allegiant flies from Plattsburgh to Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, and Tampa, Florida.

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