Albany Airport’s cramped security checkpoint in line for expansion

The Albany International Aiport security checkpoint is crowded around noon Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021.

The Albany International Aiport security checkpoint is crowded around noon Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021.

COLONIE — Late Wednesday morning, the line of travelers waiting to pass through the security checkpoint at Albany International Airport stretched most of the way across the pedestrian bridge to the garage.

It was not an uncommon occurrence before COVID-19 limited air travel in 2020, and it has been happening more often in 2021.

Also Wednesday morning, nearly below the pedestrian bridge, a solution to the logjam was heralded:

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., announced $28 million would be coming to the airport as part of the $1 trillion infrastructure spending bill he negotiated to Senate passage last week with significant Republican support.

Albany International Airport will use the money to build a massive expansion of its second-story security check-in area, which was built before the Sept. 11 attacks; to expand the airport’s cargo facility, which has proved lucrative during the pandemic, when e-commerce boomed; and add an aircraft maintenance facility for private aircraft, to increase a revenue stream that is capped now by lack of space.

Albany County Airport Authority CEO Philip Calderone said these three projects are still on the drawing board, so their price tag isn’t known, but it will be significantly more than $28 million.

The infrastructure spending bill still must receive approval in the House of Representatives. It enjoys bipartisan support in the House as in the Senate, but faces a potential stumbling block: Progressive House members want to attach a $3.5 trillion wishlist of social safety net spending that does not enjoy bipartisan support.

Asked about the infrastructure bill’s prospects in the House, Schumer said he expected the measure to be passed by the House and then signed by the president in the fall, with funding starting to flow to recipients in the spring of 2022.

Other funding that would come to the Capital Region and upstate New York as part of the infrastructure bill includes:

  • $113 million for the Capital District Transportation Authority, plus a shot at additional funds for electric buses and rapid transit bus lines;
  • $688 million for new train sets for Amtrak’s Empire Service;
  • Some portion of $26 billion in nationwide funding for road and bridge repair; 
  • Some portion of $20 billion nationally for drinking water infrastructure, including dedicated funds for lead pipe replacement;
  • Some portion of $175 million for a network of electric vehicle charging stations to be installed across New York state.

All of this spending, Schumer said, would have the three-point benefit of creating jobs, boosting local economies and improving the infrastructure of the communities where we live.

Calderone said the Airport Authority began to create its first new master plan in 28 years when he came aboard as CEO in late 2019. The federal funding coming the airport’s way has allowed for the time frame of executing that master plan to be accelerated, he said.

The public will see new things including a children’s room, a quiet room and an expanded business center, but the focal point will be the new second-story security space, and the bridge leading to it, which is wide enough for about four people to stand abreast. 

The new bridge will be a couple hundred feet wide.

“This bridge will be gone and there will be a new bridge,” Calderone said. “But don’t think of it as a bridge, think of it as an extension of the terminal. It will be a new gateway into the airport. This will be a grand entrance where you’ll be coming into a much larger place.”

The airport’s ventilation system also will be upgraded. 

Its cargo capacity will be expanded, not just for e-commerce but for the needs of major area employers such as GlobalFoundries.

And the fixed-base operations space will be expanded to service private jets that currently are turned away for lack of capacity.

“So it achieves a lot of things,” Calderone said of the $28 million.

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