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Construction to begin in spring on new Falls airport terminal

Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority officials announced they expect construction to begin in the spring on a new $27.5 million terminal at Niagara Falls International Airport.

A $2 million grant from a joint public-private partnership tipped the scales in a long funding campaign, giving the green light to award the construction project.

"This $2 million is the frosting on the cake," said NFTA Vice Chairman Henry M. Sloma.

Bids will be presented at the Nov. 20 meeting of the aviation committee of the NFTA, which owns the airport.

The committee will recommend bidders to the 11-member board of commissioners at its next meeting on Nov. 26.

Construction is anticipated to be completed by the summer of 2009, said Lawrence M. Meckler, NFTA executive director.

State Sen. George D. Maziarz, R-Newfane, called it "the campaign of a lifetime."

"The obituary was all but written on this airport," Maziarz said. "But today we see an airport we haven't seen in years -- cars in the parking lot and planes that will go all over the world."

The NFTA expects to attract commercial, charter and cargo traffic from around the globe with the new terminal.

"The new terminal will encourage other airlines and charter companies," said Paul D. Faltyn, president of Commercial Aviation Consulting of Wheatfield.

"I have heard it said that Niagara Falls is a place where great ideas come and die," Faltyn added. "We're going to change that."

Myrtle Beach Direct Air has been operating two direct flights a week to Myrtle Beach, Fla., since March. It will offer three nonstop flights a week to St. Petersburg, Fla., starting Dec. 20.

Plans for chartered weekly flights to Shannon, Ireland, are being finalized with Kenny Tours of Salisbury, Md., with a possible start date in mid-May.

The NFTA also is negotiating with Skybus of Columbus, Ohio, for flights in the United States.

The two-story, 69,000-square-foot terminal will be three times the size of the current structure and will be built between it and Calspan Corp.'s flight research center, said William R. Vanecek, the NFTA's director of aviation.

The $2 million boost came from the Niagara Economic Development Fund, which was created 20 years ago by the New York State Power Authority with $5 million to assist economic growth in Niagara County. The trustees of the fund, in addition to the Power Authority, are Empire State Development, the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency and the City of Niagara Falls.

With $14 million in funding from the Seneca Niagara Casino, the NFTA has more than half what it needs to build the new terminal, Maziarz said.

The balance will be funded through NFTA bonding and other funding sources, Meckler said.

"This $2 million was a crucial piece to our funding puzzle," Meckler said. "Apart from the money, the grant demonstrates strong support for the project from our key stakeholders."

The bonding process will not prevent construction from going ahead on schedule, he added.

"The dream is coming true," said Clyde Burmaster, chairman of the Niagara County Legislature. "Let's land some airplanes."


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