Fourth Big Airport May Be Needed in Metro New York City

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) -- The head of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said Monday that the metropolitan region may need a fourth major airport to meet the great demand for air travel.

''At some point someone thought of building the George Washington Bridge and eventually built it,'' Port Authority Chairman Anthony Coscia told reporters after testifying to lawmakers. ''We have an obligation to ourselves and to the future to be able to build for that growth.''

Coscia, who testified before a state Senate committee, also said his agency has asked federal regulators to reduce flights in and out of Teterboro Airport, where two planes have skidded off runways and a third crashed while landing this year.

Located in a densely populated area near New York, Teterboro has grown into one of the nation's busiest small airports. It had 202,720 arrivals and departures in 2004, a 4 percent increase from 2003.

The airport has been a longtime sore spot for neighboring residents, who have complained of aircraft noise and exhaust odors.

The Port Authority is proposing $20 million in upgrades to the airport, including barriers that expand on impact to slow or stop a plane at the end of a runway. On Feb. 2, a plane ran off the end of a runway after an aborted takeoff, crossed a busy road and slammed into a warehouse, injuring 20 people.

''The fact that there was no loss of life in that incident is a miracle,'' said Sen. Paul Sarlo, D-Bergen, chairman of the Senate Legislative Oversight Committee.

Port Authority officials and lawmakers said they want to band together to lobby the Federal Aviation Administration to limit Teterboro's flights. Closing the airport, they said, is not an option because it employs 1,200 people and contributes $1.8 billion to the economy each year.

Coscia said the authority intends to limit the weight of aircraft that use Teterboro, complete a study evaluating airport space in the region, increase landing fees, buy specialized fire equipment and ban some corporate jets to reduce noise and lower the overall number of flights at Teterboro. The authority also plans to ask the Federal Reserve Bank, which accounts for about 50 percent of the airport's nighttime flights, to fly there during the day.

Small New York airports, including White Plains, Macarthur and Stewart, and New Jersey airports such as Morristown, Atlantic City and McGuire, might be able to handle some of Teterboro's volume, Coscia said.

LaGuardia, Newark Liberty and John F. Kennedy international airports all serve the area. Coscia said adding an airport to the region, to which about 100 million people travel for business and pleasure annually, is worth considering.

''Whether that includes a fourth major airport, whether that includes additional capacity, all of those things should be on the table and we're going to spend the resources on studying it intelligently because what we don't want to do is to see the problems that we have today at Teterboro,'' Coscia said.