In a special meeting on Monday, the Tompkins County Legislature accepted more than $2 million in grants from the Federal Aviation Administration for two building projects at the Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport.
The first $870,763 FAA grant will go to build a passenger boarding bridge and the second grant for over $1.5 million will help the airport “rehabilitate the Airport’s General Aviation apron, and install perimeter fencing and apron lighting,” according to a press release.
Meanwhile, the airport announced on Tuesday United Airlines will now serve the airport with larger, 50-seat jets rather than the old 37-seat planes. According to the press release, the upgrade is in response to increased passenger demand.
Ninety percent of the cost of both airport projects will be covered by the FAA grants. The New York Department of Transportation will cover another 5 percent, and the airport will pay the remaining 5 percent through airport passenger facility charges.
Such fees are typically added onto ticket prices, and go toward airport upkeep, Airport Manager Mike Hall said. Because of federal limits, Hall said the fees amount to a few dollars per ticket.
Hall said the two projects will help to update and refurbish the airport, which he said is a vital economic driver in the community.
He added that the Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport is unique from many other airports in central New York because it is a destination airport. Customers thus fly in and stay in Ithaca, injecting even more money into the local economy, rather than flying in, then driving elsewhere.
According to the airport’s site, it served over 200,000 passengers last year, generating nearly $456,000 in sales tax revenue alone.
R.J. Ortlieb Construction, Incorporated, of Baldwinsville, and Patricia Electric, of Syracuse, were awarded a combined $817,365 in contracts to install the Passenger Boarding Bridge. Boland’s Excavating, of Conklin, was awarded the second contract for $1,554,027.50.
For both projects, the legislature’s finance director was authorized to advance payments until the federal and local grants are reimbursed.