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UB study touts Niagara Falls airport as cargo hub Says its location, proximity to bridges, highways are keys to potential success

A new study on the nearly idle Niagara Falls International Airport touts its potential as a binational air cargo hub.

The report, produced by a team of University at Buffalo graduate students, highlights the Niagara County airfield's location, landing capacity and proximity to major highways and international bridges as keys to its potential air cargo success.

It also puts the Niagara Falls airport's assets in the context of the burgeoning air cargo industry, which is seeking alternatives to the expense and hassle of shipping goods through the world's large passenger airports.

The Niagara Falls airport could be positioned to attract air shipments currently flown into Toronto's Pearson International Airport, as well as airports in New York and Chicago.

"I think it presents a strong case for what is an important opportunity for Western New York and Southern Ontario, an opportunity for the region," said former UB President William R. Greiner, who served as an adviser to the study's authors in his continuing role as a UB Law School professor.

The more than 80-page report -- produced by a team of 11 students from UB's department of urban and regional planning in the School of Architecture and Planning and the Law School -- was presented Monday to the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority's board of commissioners.

"I plan to get this in front of about a hundred decision-makers by the end of the week," said NFTA Chairman Gregory Stamm. He said that while the attributes of the airport are well known to board members and air cargo advocates, the study brings the full picture of the possibilities into a single document.

An international air cargo symposium will be held March 28 at the Niagara Falls airport. Pat Whalen, of World Trade Center Buffalo-Niagara, which is organizing the event, said cargo shippers, receivers and freight forwarders from a five-state area and Ontario are expected to attend.

In other aviation-related action, the NFTA board approved a slate of contracts that will lead to improvements at the Niagara Falls airport and Buffalo Niagara International Airport. The commissioners approved a $21 million bid from Buffalo's LP Ciminelli Construction Co. for installation of a state-of-the-art baggage handling system. Grand Island's Cannon Design was awarded the nearly $2 million contract for system design.

The baggage system is needed to meet federal Transportation Security Administration screening requirements and is expected to speed up the inspection and loading process. It will be completed in late 2008.

Also approved were:

* A $703,655 contract with Siemens Building Technologies for installation of a new closed-circuit television security system for the Buffalo airport.

* A $200,227 contract with McFarland-Johnson for design services on a new cargo apron at the Niagara Falls airport.

* A $130,000 supplemental contract with Innova Consulting for continued assistance in marketing the Falls airport to cargo and passenger airlines.

e-mail: slinstedt@buffnews.com

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