Westover Metropolitan Airport is in line to receive $15 million for infrastructure improvements to support the expansion of its passenger air service. State Rep. Joseph F. Wagner, D-Chicopee, announced yesterday that $15 million was recently added to the Joint Transportation Committee's proposed $4.8 billion transportation bond bill. The House and Senate need to pass the bill before sending it to the governor's desk for final approval, which should happen within three weeks, Wagner said. "There's not a doubt in my mind that it will find its way to the governor's desk," said Wagner, who co-chairs the Transportation Committee.
The airport, which is owned by Westover Metropolitan Development Corp., introduced its first regular passenger service in almost two decades in July when Skybus Airlines debuted there. The discount airline, based in Columbus, Ohio, just announced this week it will be adding two daily flights to Florida on June 1. There are also flights to Columbus and Greensboro, N.C.
"I think it's (the bonding) an appropriate time given there's been the establishment of passenger service at Westover," Wagner said. "We've seen an expansion of Skybus in a very short period of time."
Pogo Jet Inc. has also announced it wants to offer charter jet service at Westover once it starts offering trips, which should be sometime next year. The company has established a base at the airport. "It's very good news," said Allan W. Blair, chief executive office and president of Westover Metropolitan Development Corp., of the $15 million.
Blair said he's working on a scope of infrastructure improvements needed at the airport, which includes a new terminal at a cost of between $7 million and $9 million. Ramp improvements and new parking lots, access roads and signage are also on the list. The terminal was last renovated in 1988. While the airport does comply with post Sept. 11, 2001, security requirements, security arrangements should also be improved, Blair added. "I believe, given the level of activity we're seeing, the only way to handle the traffic is a new building," Blair said. "These buildings are portals for those who enter our market and we want it to be a pleasant experience for them."
Both Blair and Mayor Michael D. Bissonnette praised Wagner for including the money in the bond package.
Bissonnette said state Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Daniel O'Connell is scheduled to visit the airport today to review the facility. "We're very grateful for the administration's support of this and the chairman's efforts to get it into the transportation bond bill," Bissonnette said. "It's a clear signal to Skybus we support their continued expansion at Westover."
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