Portland, Maine, to Consider Airport Expansion

$1 million to be spent on preliminary study to determine what will be needed in expansion


PORTLAND, Maine (AP) - City officials who are contemplating the first passenger terminal expansion in more than a decade at the Portland International Jetport plan to spend more than $1 million to determine what's needed.

Airport officials believe an expansion or redesign is necessary to handle modern passenger loads as well as increased security personnel and equipment put in place after two terrorists flew from the airport on Sept. 11, 2001.

"We've squeezed a ton of stuff into a terminal that wasn't built to handle current passenger loads, let alone extra security measures,'' said Jeffrey Monroe, Portland's director of ports and transportation. "Not doing anything isn't an option.''

The City Council voted this week to spend $375,000 in airport surplus funds on a preliminary design and feasibility study. An additional effort to update the airport's master plan will be funded by a $660,000 federal grant.

A 24-member master planning committee will include residents of neighborhoods near the airport, as well as representatives from South Portland, Westbrook and Cape Elizabeth.

James Cohen, chairman of the City Council's transportation committee, said the study will determine whether an expansion is necessary, how it would affect the community and whether it's economically feasible.

But he suggested something needs to be done. "It's difficult to navigate through the jetport as it is. It's not efficient. It's not attractive,'' he said.

Whatever it costs, an expansion would be funded by jetport user fees. Passengers now pay a $3 facilities charge with every ticket.

The airport was built in 1968. It has been expanded four times, the last in 1994. Additional parking also has been added.

Monroe blamed the crowding in part for the addition of Transportation Security Administration screeners and equipment.

Air travel also has picked up. Last year, the airport handled nearly 1.4 million passengers, surpassing the previous high, set in 1999.