ITHACA, N.Y. – Sen. Chuck Schumer landed at the Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport on Friday to announce a major push to secure federal funding for the airport’s overhaul. Standing with local leaders, he voiced his support of the airport’s application for a $10 million grant from the Federal Aviation Administration’s Airport Improvement Program. The grant would provide key funding for major renovations underway at the airport.
The Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport broke ground in October on a $24.7 million plan to modernize and expand. The first phase of the project has been funded with $14.2 million in grants from New York State, but the county is on the hook for the remainder of the cost until other sources of funding are secured.
Schumer called Ithaca a gateway and said modernizing the airport would help grow the regional economy and strengthen Cornell University’s position as an intellectual center.
“It’s plain to see this airport is undergoing a great transformation,” he said, gesturing to construction work underway in the terminal. Over the past two decades, he said, “it has improved significantly, but we can’t rest on our laurels.”
Related:’This is a big deal’: Tompkins officially breaks ground on $24 million airport redevelopment project
Schumer said federal funding would play a critical role in ensuring the second phase of the project is completed. While he noted that competition for AIP grants is fierce, he said if the FAA gives full consideration to the merits of ITH’s application, it will succeed.
“I am going to put my muscle behind this $10 million grant,” Schumer said.
The airport overhaul will expand the existing terminal with six new gates and three passenger bridges and add a customs facility that will allow international flights to land directly in Ithaca. Upgrades to security are expected and energy-saving initiatives are included in the design. In addition, the project will facilitate the relocation of the area’s Department of Transportation facility from Ithaca’s waterfront to a sub-leased portion of the airport site.
Mike Hall, director of the Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport, said improvements would strengthen the area’s global connections.
“Our economy depends on diversity and inclusion,” he said, and by continuing to grow the airport is saying to visitors, “We welcome you.”
Several members of the Tompkins County Legislature were on hand to thank Schumer for his support, as well as county administrator Jason Molino and Cornell’s vice president for university relations, Joel Malina.
Jennifer Tavares, president of the Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce, praised the project’s public/private partnerships and said the enhanced facilities would help attract new companies to the area.
If the funding application is approved and work proceeds as planned, Hall said he would be inviting Schumer back as soon as the end of 2019 to celebrate the project’s completion.
Featured photo by Devon Magliozzi/The Ithaca Voice.