The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey moved closer to taking over operations of Atlantic City's airport, a transfer aimed at reducing congestion at its other airports and luring back southern New Jersey passengers who fly out of Philadelphia.
Port authority board Chairman David Samson said he expected the agency to assume operations by July, after negotiations with the South Jersey Transportation Authority, the airport's current operator. The SJTA board voted Wednesday to allow negotiations to proceed, a spokesman said in an email.
Samson stressed that the port authority was committing to operating Atlantic City International Airport for a limited amount of time with an option to eventually purchase the SJTA's interests in the airport. He didn't give any details about what length of time was being considered.
The authority sees the Atlantic City airport as underutilized. According to port authority deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni, the airport could accommodate up to 300 flights per day. Currently it has about 27, he said.
"We're hoping that by capitalizing on our relationships with existing carriers and our experience running five airports, we will be successful," Samson said.
The authority operates three major New York area airports — Kennedy, LaGuardia, and Newark — plus Teterboro in New Jersey and Stewart in New York. The three large airports annually handle more than 100 million passengers, and delays at any of the three often have a ripple effect on air travel throughout the United States.
Legislation in 2007 in both New York and New Jersey empowered the authority to establish one additional air terminal in each state. The port authority acquired its interest in Stewart in Newburgh, N.Y., in 2007.
Gov. Chris Christie gave his approval to the Atlantic City plan, as required under the legislation, late Tuesday, Baroni said.
Samson said the port authority would be responsible for operations but would not be committing any capital expenditures to expand Atlantic City's runways capacity, terminal or parking areas.
Another goal of the takeover is to increase travel to southern New Jersey and to Atlantic City's casinos, which have struggled in recent years in the face of competition from neighboring states.
Baroni cited a statistic that claimed that while Atlantic City's airport served 1.4 million passengers in 2012, only 1 percent of inbound travelers wound up at the casinos.
The South Jersey Transportation Authority also operates the Atlantic City Expressway and parking facilities in the seaside city.