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$28 billion Newark Airport makeover would add runway

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A line of planes prepares to take off at Newark Liberty International Airport.
A line of planes prepares to take off at Newark Liberty International Airport. - ()

Regional Plan Association is calling for an ambitious renovation of Newark Liberty International Airport that features an additional runway as part of $50.8 billion in regional transportation upgrades proposed for the next 40 years.

RPA is an independent, not-for-profit civic organization that develops and promotes infrastructure ideas in the metropolitan New York area. The RPA released a report June 11 calling for investment beyond what’s now allocated in the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey’s budget.

Other expenditures would include an expansion of the PATH rail system south into Elizabeth – which is just a proposal for right now – and two new runways at New York’s JFK Airport. The price tag on the Newark airport project alone would total $28 billion.

“RPA feels we need a transformational view to connect the airport to the community,” said Rich Barone, vice president of transportation for RPA. “We see it as an economic generator for the city and the region.”

RPA’s plan calls for Newark Airport to create a Northeast Rail Corridor terminal headhouse, thereby shifting the front door of the airport to the Northeast Corridor and creating the region’s premier intermodal facility that would be served by an extended PATH. It includes building a new midfield concourse with secure-side AirTrain connection to the NEC headhouse; extending the airport south to create an expanded southern cargo area; and preparing the airport to survive up to six feet of sea level rise.

“This is the first step in putting together a long-term vision at Newark Airport. The hope is this vision is shared and discussed over time.”

Rich Barone, vice president of transportation for RPA

The plan would improve access to the airport from PATH, New Jersey Transit and Amtrak.

The funding would come from federal, state and local sources and the private sector, Barone said. On the federal side, there has been a call to increase the passenger facility charge, which airline passengers pay as part of their ticket price.

“We think that cap should be raised,” Barone said. “It has been set for more than a decade even though costs have increased.”

The Port Authority could charge vehicles entering the airport and increase charges to airlines to land.

“The public-private partnership has been very successful at LaGuardia,” Barone said. “The private sector could provide some funding. There are opportunities for development around Newark Airport through the [New Jersey Institute of Technology] to leverage the surrounding community to capture development of the airport.”

Barone said at least two years are needed to determine if stakeholders support this idea. To move forward, it would require a National Environmental Policy Act review, which could take five years to seven years.

“This is the first step in putting together a long-term vision at Newark Airport,” Barone said. “The hope is this vision is shared and discussed over time.”

The plan would require a federal review process, although it must be studied before being adopted. Newark airport would remain open during the construction.

“It will make Newark Airport the envy of the country or the world,” Barone said. “It is a complicated reorganization to create a new ground access along the busiest airport in the nation. We do not think this is the final word on what is going to happen in Newark. Certain things might be deemed unfeasible.”

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka supports the plan for upgrades to Newark Airport, calling it a “blueprint for Newark’s and the region’s strength as an economic center.”

“Newark Liberty International Airport occupies a central place in our city’s economy,” Baraka said in a statement. “One of the busiest airports in the nation, a central hub for major national and international airlines, a leading employer, it is critical that we ensure that the airport is able to keep pace with the times and maintain the highest levels of efficiency, productivity and customer service.”

The release of the report coincided with the launch of the city of Newark’s effort to identify the most beneficial course for development of the area in and around the airport.

The entire RPA plan would have to undergo a technical analysis and be supported by office-holders in Newark and Elizabeth, the Port Authority and Federal Aviation Administration.

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David Hutter

David Hutter

David Hutter grew up in Darien, Conn., and covers higher education, transportation and manufacturing for NJBIZ. He can be reached at dhutter@njbiz.com.

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