The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is taking steps to attract more international passengers to Stewart Airport in the Hudson Valley.
The Port Authority acquired the airport three years ago intending to make it the region's fourth major airport.
But traffic at Stewart, which is located in Newburgh and New Windsor, in Orange County, has declined because of the recession, and last year served fewer than half a million passengers, according to Port Authority statistics. Officials hope to more than double that number in the next few years.
On Thursday the board of commissioners allocated $ 2million for planning and design work to make the Stewart's passenger terminal about one-fifth larger. The 25,000-square feet expansion will be large enough to accommodate a permanent customs and immigration facility. The total cost of the expansion will be determined once the designs are completed, at the end of next year.
International flights are currently allowed to land at Stewart—but they stopped doing so about four years ago. That's because U.S. Customs and Border Protection doesn't have enough space to process passengers, according to Susan Baer, director of aviation at the Port Authority. The federal government has agreed to set up an interim processing facility for the next two years, which will accommodate international charter flights beginning next spring.
Baer says the airport expansion could also serve domestic flights if that market expands.