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Officials call for major improvements, changes to Newark Liberty International Airport

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Mayor Ras J. Baraka called for money to be invested into redesigning Newark's airport with easy rail access to allow the city to serve as a global and regional hub. Credits: Heather Kays
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South Ward Council Member John Sharpe James supports the plan to redesign and make changes and improvements to Newark's airport. He said the project is of vital importance to the South Ward. Credits: Heather Kays
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Regional Plan Association President Tom Wright discussed the details of his organization’s plan to upgrade airports in the region in hopes of creating “economic powerhouses” including in Newark. Credits: Heather Kays
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Newark, NJ—Mayor Ras J. Baraka, South Ward Council Member John Sharpe James, and Regional Plan Association (RPA) President Tom Wright on Monday held a press conference to discuss the association’s report calling for upgrades to the region’s airports.

The report, entitled “Upgrading to World Class: The Future of the Region’s Airports Revisited,” calls for major expansions and changes at Newark Liberty International Airport, including a new transit hub. According to RPA officials and Baraka the proposed changes would have “massive impact” on Newark’s economy. 

Regional Plan Association is an independent, not-for-profit civic organization that develops and promotes ideas to improve the economic health, environmental resiliency and quality of life of the New York metropolitan area. The report is a supplemental document to RPA’s Fourth Regional Plan which was issued in Fall of 2018.

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The report contains multi-decade recommendations for all the region’s airports. The idea is to allow for the continued prosperity of the region in the face of problems such as aging infrastructure, capacity constraints, and sea level rise.

RPA officials said they estimate to completely redo Newark airport would cost $28 billion dollars or $750 million dollars annually over a forty-year period. Eventually another runway would be added, according to RPA’s plans.

“How Atlanta’s airport is to that region is absolutely what Newark Airport should be to this region,” said Baraka, during the press conference held at City Hall. “What is missing is the investment. The kind of investment in the infrastructure and the transportation infrastructure that we need. The state government here in New Jersey, the state government in New York, the federal government are under investing in infrastructure. It’s a mistake. It’s a huge mistake. It’s not only a mistake because some of the things are very, very old but it is a mistake because it under utilizes the capacity of the transportation infrastructure that we have in this community. If they invested more in the airport we would be able to see what’s being presented to us today. It would have an awesome impact not just on the regionally economy but in Newark specifically. More residents getting employed, more opportunities for residents to have access to the airport, raising the economy in the city of Newark which in turn raises the economy in the State of New Jersey.”

Baraka said that it is vital that the “plans and dreams” presented by RPA need to be supported and fought for so the upgrades can come to fruition.

South Ward Council Member John Sharpe James stressed the importance of this project to the South Ward.

“The airport is our biggest economic driver in that area. I am pleased to have been working with RPA and the Mayor driving redevelopment in the South Ward,” said James. “Currently we have a planned PATH train extension, a new station at the airport. This project before you actually would bring that station, would bring the airport closer to that station to involve more community access. Right now, from the street you cannot walk to Newark Airport. This project with the new station would allow individuals to be dropped off at the street level and engage in various forms of transportation.”

RPA’s President Tom Wright said there is not enough progress taking place in the way of adding capacity and building airports to become the “economic powerhouses” that they should be to the area.

“What we are doing is we are laying out a vision that we think is very provocative and we hope compelling for people,” said Wright. “But what this does is shows that it can be done.”  

Wright said serious reforms need to take place at the Port Authority, so the necessary funding could be freed up and used for this project. He said the Port Authority needs to figure out how to make its seaports profitable like they are in other parts of the world and the Port Authority needs to make other departments self-sustaining rather than using the enormous profits made by airports continuously to fund and subsidize other projects and operations.

Wright called for the business, the civic and the public sectors to come together so that the necessary decisions will be made to upgrade the region’s airports.

“Our region’s economy is thriving, and air passenger travel is booming,” said Wright. “But all three of our major airports suffer from some of the worst delays in the nation and traffic getting to and from our airports. We need to invest to build a modern airport system for our growing region. This includes expanding runway capacity, providing transit connections, and continuing to improve the customer experience.”

The report calls for several recommendations for Newark Liberty International Airport. These include:

  • Creating a Northeast Rail Corridor (NEC) terminal headhouse, thereby shifting the front door of the airport to the NEC and creating the region’s premier intermodal facility that would be served by an extended PATH, RPA’s proposed regional rail service connecting to all parts of the region and Amtrak
  • Creating an additional runway to serve up to 69 million annual air passengers by 2060
  • Building a new midfield concourse with secure-side AirTrain connection to the NEC headhouse
  • Extend the airport south to create an expanded southern cargo area
  • Planning for how to harden airport to survive up to six feet of sea level rise

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