Money For Airport Improvements, New Congress Street Bridge On State Bond Commission Agenda

City officials hope an effort to bring back commercial passenger service to Sikorsky Memorial Airport fashions a safe landing on the Dec. 11 State Bond Commission agenda that includes a request for $7 million in improvements. See agenda here.

This will be the last Bond Commission meeting chaired by outgoing Governor Dan Malloy who met with Mayor Joe Ganim two weeks ago about prioritizing development initiatives for the city.

The city’s in negotiations with airlines that includes $8 million in private investment for new passenger service that has been dormant for decades. The airport has relied on corporate and charter flights. The city-owned airport is located in Stratford that has opposed airport runway expansion.

Technological advances in aviation, as well as airport upgrades, would enhance the city’s chances to bring back passenger service. City and state officials say airport improvements will open the door to regional passenger air service using new quiet jets that can take off and land on the existing runways without the need for expansion.

If the city can work out a deal with an airline for commercial flights, it’s subject to FAA approval. From Bond Commission agenda:

Item 34 C. These funds are requested to provide a grant-in-aid to the City of Bridgeport to provide a match to private investment for phase 1 of improvements to Sikorsky Memorial Airport. The project includes improvements to the airport’s roadways and parking areas, construction of a terminal building and the rehabilitation of an existing abandoned structure to be reused as an operations center. All necessary financial commitments and assurances must be in place prior to any state funds being disbursed.

Funds are Requested as Follows:
Total Estimated Cost $15,000,000
Less: Private Investment 8,000,000
Total, This Request $7,000,000

June 2018, Mayor Joe Ganim, Congressman Jim Himes and State Rep. Ezequiel Santiago near site of old Congress Street Bridge. Photo courtesy Steve Krauchick, Doing It Local.

Also on the agenda a $3.7 million request toward a new Congress Street Bridge connecting the East Side to Downtown. City and state officials have placed a $24 million price tag for a new bridge. Municipal officials are seeking the help of members of Connecticut’s federal delegation such as Congressman Jim Himes and Senators Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal to shepherd federal dough.

The bridge that fell into disrepair decades ago and was eventually removed was located next to city Fire Headquarters. It has choked off quick public safety access to the East Side as well as curtailed business for merchants.

Aerial of Pequonnock River and bridge opening.

Federal officials this year declared the Pequonnock River north of the bridge a non-navigable waterway for commercial boat traffic. As a result a new bridge can be a fixed span reducing the cost of bridge reconstruction.

The Bond Commission agenda item also requests nearly $2.3 million for coastal flood infrastructure improvements toward the federal government’s Bridgeport Resiliency project and $1 million “to assist with ongoing demolition, site remediation and historic preservation at the abandoned and blighted Remington Arms complex” on the East Side.

“I want to praise the administration of Governor Malloy for working with the city of Bridgeport to place these critical items on the bond commission agenda, sharing our vision for much needed economic progress that will benefit our entire region for years,” said Ganim in a prepared statement. “Bridgeport has a significant opportunity to leverage these state investments with private dollars to create a new regional transportation hub, get eyesores demolished to clear land for development, and rebuild a bridge to improve public safety and reconnect the East End of Bridgeport with our rapidly developing downtown. I also want to thank the hard work of Congressman Jim Himes and Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy for their efforts on the federal level to finally make it possible to replace a bridge that has sat broken for decades with one that will significantly ease the flow of commercial, residential and emergency traffic in the center of our city.”

Statement from Bridgeport’s State House delegation:

“For far too long, Bridgeport’s potential as an economic driver went ignored. With the release of today’s Bond Commission agenda, we take another big step in reversing that trend. With major state investments in our airport, reconnecting the city across the Congress Street Bridge, making the city resilient from the next coastal storm, cleaning blighted property and improving technology infrastructure, we are making sure Bridgeport is ready to compete for jobs and economic opportunity. We want to thank Governor Malloy for his leadership and support in rebuilding Bridgeport over these past eight years.”

Statement from State Senator Marilyn Moore:

“As we envision a future for Bridgeport full of economic growth and job opportunities, these projects will be part of how we achieve that. I’m especially excited about the work being done to finally restore the Congress Street Bridge, which was once a major link between Downtown and the city’s East Side, and about the improvements to Sikorsky Memorial Airport. These transportation infrastructure projects will support future initiatives–like the entertainment that’s being proposed–and will attract other businesses to our city.”

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11 comments

  1. I am sorry but I am absolutely cold and unimpressed with the Sikorsky Airport “talk.” The City of Bridgeport and the Town of Stratford must make a legal agreement in terms of what will Sikorsky Airport will look like when and if any improvements are made towards that goal. This has been a multi-decades issue. How many years? 50 years plus? Give me a break. There is a time to make a total plan to go forward or to cut losses. The fact that the airport is in Stratford is an intractable and constantly recurring issue. Before one cent is spent on Sikorsky Airport, The city of Bridgeport and the Town of Stratford must come to a legally binding contract over what Sikorsky Airport will look like in the future,what services it will provide. We need to see a vision of a final product instead of just throwing more money into the airport. IMHO,I would rather see some co-ordinated teamwork of our elected representatives and civic leaders towards building a bridge to Pleasure Beach and “upgrading Seaside Park to become a jewel of Bridgeport,similar to Cental Park in NYC.

  2. With Bridgeport owning Sikorsky Memorial Airport it’s the Bridgeport Fire Department that has the responsibility in responding to all aircraft emergencies, that is a long consuming drive from Bridgeport to Stratford.

    1. Ron…that is an interesting point and another thing that should be cleared up. I don’t know the capabilities of the Stratford Fire Department. You would be a better judge of that. However,as in all emergencies,seconds counts. Based on what you said,is Sikorsky Airport simply a “dangerous” airport due to the accessibility and time of response for emergencies?

  3. Senate Chair of the State Bond Commission Senator Marilyn Moore (D-Bridgeport) announced today the expected approval of over $14.6 million for various economic development projects in Bridgeport, including the replacement of the Congress Street Bridge, improvements to Sikorsky Memorial Airport, maintenance of the coastal flood defense system, and preservation of Remington Arms.

    “As we envision a future for Bridgeport full of economic growth and job opportunities, these projects will be part of how we achieve that,” Sen. Moore said. Well said Mayor Moore. Any questions?

    1. Well. I really do have a question. Why are we (Senator Moore included) throwing more money at Sikorsky Airport but absolutely no one knows what the final product will be. Next time I meet Senator Moore I am going really ask very pointed and specific questions about Sikorsky Airport. As if right now,IMHO, it’s just throwing money at a unknown cause. That’s just as bad as it can get when it comes to honest governance. I want Senator Moore to address this issue. Directly and with honesty. What will Sikorsky Airport look like in 5 years. Ten years. And what type of leadership will be required to get us there. There is also the question of the ongoing dynamics of the airline industry. Does Sikorsky fit within that business model. I want to hear this directly from Senator Moore. I have absolutely no interest in what Ganim has to say. Will Senator Moore directly answer this question.

  4. In a past life I used Sikorsky Airport for business. I used Air Wisconsin for a direct flight to Chicago. I used Pilgrim Airlines to Boston. Numerous flights to various locations on corporate aircraft were well-served by Sikorsky Airport. Those days are in the past for me and for Sikorsky Airport.

    For at least the past two decades we have been reminded that the business models of the airline industry (as noted by Frank Gyure) have changed. The short runway of Sikorsky Airport does not accommodate the aircraft now used for feeder service. Even Tweed-New Haven Airport with a considerably longer runway is struggling.

    Bridgeport is no longer the economic engine of the region. Bridgeport can not generate enough revenue to operate what infrastructure it has. ‘Economic Development’ has now become ‘affordable housing’ funded by a dwindling tax base.

    The time has come for the City of Bridgeport to develop an ‘exit plan’, to disengage from Sikorsky Airport.
    operations.

    It may take several years, but is time to face reality.

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