OGDENSBURG — Significant upgrades are needed at the Ogdensburg International Airport if it wants to remain competitive and attract passengers from the region, including Canada, according to the application for $20 million submitted to the state Department of Transportation.
The funding application was submitted to the state’s Upstate Airport Economic Development and Revitalization Initiative in September by Steven J. Lawrence, executive director of the Ogdensburg Bridge & Port Authority. The application seeks the maximum amount of funding through the state initiative that has made $250 million available for airport enhancements across upstate New York.
The enhancements are needed for a multitude of reasons. The current terminal is cramped and there is not enough seating for the number of passengers flying in and out of the airport; there is only one gate for both incoming and outgoing flights, contributing to congestion; there are few concessions for passengers who may have to be there for an extended period of time; and there is a lack of office and storage space for airport officials.
The $20 million grant would ultimately transform the airport.
“This project represents a unique opportunity to update OGS to create a better experience for passengers passing through and, at the same time, create a new community gathering space that can be used for a variety of purposes,” Mr. Lawrence said. “In doing this, this project can change the paradigm for how an airport terminal in a small community can be utilized to benefit more than just those passengers passing through the facility. The successful completion of this project can transform the way small, upstate airports think about how best to expand in the future.”
Airport officials have seen passenger volumes increase exponentially and they believe this is a trend that will continue.
Mr. Lawrence said that passenger traffic is significant, despite a marked decrease in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2019, Mr. Lawrence said that 22,438 passengers went through the Ogdensburg airport, code OGS. In 2020, 8,944 passed through, and through September of this year, the airport has seen 16,333 passengers.
“The airport is currently too small for the number of passengers passing through each year. Spaces are cramped, there is not enough seating, there are few options for concessions, and there is only one gate for both incoming and outgoing flights,” the application reads. “To remain competitive, attract passengers from around the region, including those who are traveling into New York from Canada, and create a welcoming atmosphere for all who pass through, significant upgrades must be made. This project will establish OGS as a key regional airport, assist in attracting new airlines and flights to the airport, and ensure passengers have a positive, seamless experience.”
The current terminal at the airport was constructed in 1980 as an aircraft hangar and underwent extensive remodeling in 2006, converting 65% of the facility for commercial service operations. In 2016, a 2,600-square-foot addition was constructed for a dedicated terminal building, making the entire footprint roughly 10,100 square feet.
“Based on feedback from airport management and operations staff, the amount of terminal building space is inadequate and there are concerns about the building’s ability to accommodate anticipated future growth. The building, which is sized to handle just one flight at a time, is currently unable to accommodate existing levels of service and during peak periods passengers must sit on the floors and most areas of the building are congested,” the application reads. “An assessment found that the terminal building should be 41,275 SF (square feet) to meet current needs and 58,975 SF to accommodate future demand. The current 10,146 SF facility falls woefully short of this. The need for additional space has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The proposed project will ensure that passengers are able to safely distance and are not in crowded, indoor areas while they wait to fly.”
The project would dramatically transform the current airport terminal building in all aspects.
The application states that “the design of the space will be innovative and energy efficient, create operational efficiencies, and utilize design themes that reflect the unique character of the St. Lawrence County and Ogdensburg communities. The updates will create a new gateway to the north country that is both welcoming and impressive.”
Upon arriving at the airport, passengers will be dropped off under an extended canopy to protect from the elements. The curbside for drop-off and pick-up will be elongated to allow for improved traffic flow. Passengers will then be able to pass through a courtyard featuring a sitting area with tables, chairs and planters before entering the building.
“This new, open, relaxing space will set the tone as passengers enter the terminal building and provide a space for passengers awaiting ground transportation,” the application reads.
Once inside, passengers would find an expanded lobby with ample room for check-in, ticketing and baggage drop off.
Beyond the lobby to the right, passengers will pass through an expanded TSA security checkpoint. A dedicated “recomposure” area will exist beyond the checkpoint for passengers to gather their things without feeling rushed. After gathering personal items, passengers will be able to wait in an expanded hold room that allows for plenty of room to relax before a full flight.
New restrooms will be added post-TSA checkpoint to prevent long lines prior to boarding.
The concession area will be expanded to allow passengers the ability to get refreshments while they wait.
Behind the lobby and hold room, operational space will be increased with more office space, two break rooms and a storage area.
An expanded baggage staging area will allow for more efficient screening of bags and loading of them onto planes.
“All of these upgrades will improve the experience of departing passengers, as well as the efficiency of airport operations,” according to the application.
The application states that passengers on arriving flights will be greeted on the opposite side of the building.
“The renovated entrance from the apron will create a welcoming, impressive front door to the north country for visitors. The building façade will be taller, with new, modern signage welcoming passengers to Ogdensburg,” it reads.
Upon entering through a tall, glass entryway, passengers will be in the new great hall where they will be greeted by an expanded baggage claim area to the right, allowing them to retrieve their baggage conveniently and quickly. A new canopy will be constructed over the outdoor portions of the baggage belt to prevent maintenance issues and weather-related delays.
“This update will allow for a much larger space for individuals to wait for their baggage, so they are not crammed into a small, dimly lit space with other passengers,” the application reads. “Passengers can then exit through the lobby or the great room onto the aforementioned courtyard to access ground transportation.”
One of the key aspects of the project is the addition of a “great room” which can be utilized by the airport during times of heavy traffic and by the community when it is not needed for airport operations.
“The great room will transform OGS and increase its appeal for both commercial and private travel. It will also provide a new, sorely needed community space in Ogdensburg which currently lacks large, civic spaces,” the application reads.
The great room will be flexible, easily divided with partitions, will even allow for the possibility of half of the room directly connected to the terminal to be used by the airport while the other half can simultaneously be used for community events.
In addition to the great hall, the addition will include a new conference room, restrooms, a kitchen, storage space, and space for fire protection, janitorial services, information technology, mechanical and electrical. A separate entrance will be available so private events do not interfere with airport operations.
“The authority believe this project will drive economic development in Northern New York, promote growth at OGS, create a welcoming space for visitors, and provide Ogdensburg with a new community space. Arriving at the new OGS will provide a warm welcome to travelers, creating a positive first impression and a unique gateway experience into the north country of New York state,” Mr. Lawrence said.
If the OBPA receives the $20 million grant, additional funding would be needed as the costs have been estimated at $21.7 million, according to Mr. Lawrence.