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Massena supervisor calls for more collaboration with OBPA on airport improvements

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MASSENA - Massena’s town supervisor says discussions on lengthening the runway at Ogdensburg International Airport to accommodate larger commercial airplane demonstrates the need for more collaboration between the Ogdensburg and Massena airports to maximize effectiveness and revenue.

The Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority board agreed last week to have a transportation specialist Binghamton consultant, McFarland-Johnson, work with the Federal Aviation Administration to examine the feasibility of extending the runway from 5,200 to 6,000 feet.

Supervisor Joseph D. Gray pointed out the Ogdensburg and Massena airports are located approximately 40 miles apart from one another, serve similar functions and both run a deficit. The Massena Town Council has also discussed the possibility of extending the runway at Massena’s airport - a $12 million project - as a way to bolster the number of flights at the airport.

“Right now there doesn’t appear to be enough money at either airport to fund a runway extension,” Mr. Gray said. “Do we run two separate airports that aren’t financially viable or do we pool our resources toward one airport?”

Pointing out that both airports receive significant federal funding through the Essential Air Service, Mr. Gray asked, “How much longer is the federal government going to continue to fund two separate airports 45 minutes apart from each other?”

Mr. Gray plans to raise these concerns later this week during a meeting with the North Country Airport Association, which includes representatives from Massena International Airport, Ogdensburg International Airport, Saranac Lake’s Adirondack Regional Airport and Watertown International Airport.

Mr. Gray believes it may be a difficult conversation to have, given that officials from both municipalities are vested in the success of their airport, but he also believes it a much-needed conversation.

“It’s a discussion I don’t think a lot of people want to have, but it’s a conversation we need to have,” Mr. Gray said.

He also believes it’s possible for both airports to co-exist while serving different functions, and those assigned functions would ideally be determined based on the existing strengths of the different airports. He recommended bringing in a third party, one that has no stake in the success of either the Massena or Ogdensburg airports, and let that party determine the strengths and weaknesses of the respective airports.

Strengths Mr. Gray sees in Massena’s airport include a newly built terminal and longer runway than Ogdensburg’s airport. Meanwhile, Ogdensburg’s airport might be more “strategically located,” with Ottawa being a straight, one-hour drive away.

An unbiased party might be able to help officials from the two communities determine how these possible strengths could be used to separate the airport’s functions.

“We need to do a cost-to-benefit analysis; both sides should be prepared for that,” Mr. Gray said. “It seems counter-productive for both airports to continue to limp along when expenses exceed profits at both airports.”

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