Friday, June 02, 2017

Ohio Lawmaker Wants Two New Airport Hubs

A Republican state lawmaker says companies have left Ohio because of a lack of access to air travel. He says Ohio can bring back jobs and more flights by building two new regional hub airports, one in the southwest and one in the northeast.

Southwest Ohio Rep. Jim Butler wants to build airports at I-71 near Xenia and on I-80 just north of Ravenna. He says Ohio has the population to support hubs like Dallas/Ft. Worth and Atlanta have, but none of Ohio’s existing airports are within an hour’s drive of 3.5 million people, which he says a regional hub needs to be profitable. Butler admits it’s an expensive project - about $15 billion.  

“We’re not speculative, because the way they’re funded, no money for construction is spent until the airline says we’re going to make this our hub,” he said.

Butler also wants to add rail service between the major cities and the regional airports. He says federal money won’t be easy to get, but says he hopes President Trump will like this because it’s a big idea.

A better investment

Airline industry analyst Kerry Tan is a professor at Loyola University Maryland.  He says – with Cleveland, Akron and Youngstown already served by airports – the money for new facilities might be better spent on infrastructure.

“Could they improve the freeways which serve adequately to transport people through and within Ohio?  Or could they invest that money in different public works?  I’m just not sure if the money being funneled towards these two new airports is worth the cost.”

But Rep. Butler says part of his plan is to ask airlines to pay for construction of the airports in exchange for using them as hubs.  He says his plan is still being worked on and will likely not be ready for at least two years.

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