Some of the worst delays in the nation, that’s what the Regional Plan Association says about the three major airports in the area, including Newark Liberty. The RPA says passenger traffic has ballooned by 27 million in less than a decade and the airports are making progress on improving the customer experience and providing better transit access.
“But on that third issue about adding new capacity to the airports to build them into the economic powerhouse that we should have, we have not seen enough progress really, or really much at all. Newark Airport should be the capacity and should be doing for a metropolitan region what Atlanta’s Hartsfield Airport is doing. And that’s what we’re talking about in terms of the employment, the economic output, what it produces for us,” said RPA President, Tom Wright.
“How Atlanta’s airport is to that region is absolutely what Newark Airport should be to this region. What is missing is the kind of investment in the infrastructure,” said Newark Mayor Ras Baraka.
Newark has partnered with the nonprofit RPA. In a new report, the RPA says its plan can cut delays by a third and it’s urging funding to add two new runways at JFK and one at Newark.
“It’s critical that we look at a third runway, but to get to a third runway we actually have to move things around a lot at the airport in order to make it fit and to make it work to get the greatest amount of capacity. We anticipate with a third runway we can actually increase capacity by something like 44 percent, which is substantial,” said Rich Barone, vice president of transportation for the RPA.
The price tag for those new runways and seamless public transportation access among the three airports and increased preparation for climate change is nearly $51 billion. The RPA says the Port Authority owns the airports and can pay for the upgrades through reforms and making its properties more self-sustaining.
“So in some ways it’s not just about paying for these investments itself, but it’s about the Port Authority figuring out how to make its seaports profitable in a way that they are in other parts of the world. How potentially to capture some of the value created by the PATH system itself and use that to pay for operations of the PATH system, and other things, all of which would free up funding and capacity at the Port Authority to make these kinds of investments,” said Wright.
The planners say the time for Newark to get a bigger share of the economic pie at the airport is long overdue. That includes better access, connectivity to the airport from the South Ward.
“Right now, from the street you cannot walk to Newark Airport,” said John Sharpe James, South Ward council member.
“We believe that the airport, having the capacity that it has, and the seaport being the second largest seaport in the nation, needs to drive the economy more than it already is,” Baraka said.
The RPA says the money is there for its bold expansion plan, and it’s time to reduce delays on the runway and in the board room of decision makers.