You wouldn't think a shrinking population and a stagnant economy would make a case for major investments at Buffalo Niagara International Airport any time soon.
But the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority -- which runs the airport -- is nevertheless finalizing a 20-year master plan to spend $406 million on major upgrades for the terminal, parking and airfield.
That's because just across the Niagara River, the population, the economy and the demand for air travel continue to grow. And as Buffalo Niagara's convenience and lower costs attract more travelers from the Toronto megalopolis, airport planners predict steady growth at the Cheektowaga facility.
The NFTA and its consultants now envision about 8 million travelers per year by 2030 -- a major spurt from 5.4 million in 2011. An overflow of Ontario license plates in the airport parking lots ts the story -- 8 percent were Canadian in 1997, compared with 40 percent today.
The master plan (which can be found here: http://www.buffalonews.com/incoming/...29.ece/BINARY/Airport+master+plan) includes an expansion to the baggage area (including new carousels), increased parking capacity, three more gates (with more if needed), and access to the 33 without having to stop at Genesee St.
This is all a result of the steady increase of Canadian traffic, thanks to BUF's lower fares compared to YYZ, YHM, YTZ, etc. The airport authority has also expressed a desire to get the airport on par with ROC, SYR, and ALB, which is the other reason for all of this.
I'm excited for the changes, though I am curious as to the reason for the additional gates. Are they planning on another airline starting service here? Or is the extra space a result of the UA/CO and/or WN/FL mergers? I guess only time will tell!