HARTFORD, CT — Part of Gov. Ned Lamont’s transportation plan released last week includes a study on expansion of a regional airport in the southern part of the state.
However, unlike his identification of 14 electronic toll gantries, the plan is silent on whether that expansion should happen at Tweed in New Haven or Sikorsky Memorial Airport in Stratford and Bridgeport.
The transportation plan calls for creation of a group to evaluate the two airports and make a recommendation to the governor. The study is expected to take a year and would be shared with the Federal Aviation Administration.
Ryan Drajewicz, the governor’s chief of staff, said the administration wants to let the market research and the community dictate which airport would be a better investment.
“It’s going to be an objective, data-driven process,” Drajewicz said Monday.
He said the process also will involve community input.
“This process will be led by the governor’s office with guidance from the Federal Aviation Administration in Washington,” according to the CT2030 website.
On Thursday when he unveiled the transportation proposal, Lamont said it is crucial the state have an airport with expanded commercial flights serving the south-central region of Connecticut.
“We desperately need a good regional airport in south central Connecticut,” Lamont said.
Tweed has long sought to expand its commercial service.
Tweed currently runs commercial service to Philadelphia three times a day and to Charlotte on Saturdays.
However, Tweed’s been told it needs to extend its runway to increase commercial flights. But in 2009, the General Assembly passed a law that limited the length of the runway to 5,600 feet. A federal appeals court upheld a lower court ruling that says the jurisdiction on runway length lies with the Federal Aviation Administration, not the state.
The state is considering petitioning the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the case. It has until Dec. 6 to ask the court to weigh in on the case.
In the meantime, the Connecticut Airport Authority is in conversations with Tweed over management of the airport.
Coordination between Bradley and Tweed could greatly benefit both airports, CAA Executive Director Kevin Dillon has said, and save money for the city of New Haven, which owns Tweed.
A study commissioned by the Tweed authority showed just a 12% overlap in target markets, Dillon said, so there is a strong opportunity in the future to draw traffic away from New York and Newark airports rather than from Bradley.
Jorge Roberts, CEO of AVPorts, which runs Tweed in New Haven said they believe if an objective study is done then Tweed will be chosen over Sikorsky.
Roberts said there’s no need for public funds to expand Tweed because there’s enough private capital available.
He said Sikorsky is poorly suited for commercial airline service because they would need a new terminal and they would need to rehabilitate the second runway and access roads for emergency equipment.
“By all objective measures, Tweed is the only viable choice,” Roberts said.
Earlier this year, Sikorsky Airport Manager Michelle Muoio said they need to repave the runway and build a 20,000-square-foot terminal in order to offer between five and eight daily flights on aircraft accommodating 100 to 150 passengers.
The benefit to Sikorsky is the 4-lane road connecting directly to I-95.
Muoio said Tuesday that she’s going to let the process play itself out.
The communities of Stratford and East Haven surrounding the respective airports have concerns about expansion and noise.