Airport on course for steady growth

May 24, 2019

John Reed said the numbers used to build Rochester International Airport’s master plan are conservative.

“We’re beginning to outstrip those numbers already,” the airport’s executive director said Wednesday during the first of two planned community engagement events for the plan that is expected to be completed by year’s end.

Estimates approved by the Federal Aviation Administration predict the airport’s total number of flights will climb from about 40,000 in 2017 to more than 47,000 by 2032.

Last year, 43,000 flights were logged, exceeding the 2022 forecast by more than 1,300 flights.

The number of passengers using the city-owned facility also is outpacing expectations, Reed said.

Last year, 185,000 passengers were logged from the city-owned airport, which is up from 145,500 in 2017 and on the way to the 208,000 expected by 2022. By 2032, forecasters predict 248,000 tickets will be sold on flights leaving the airport.

Mark McFarland, a senior airport planner with consultants Mead and Hunt, said the numbers are informing efforts aimed at creating a roadmap for the airport’s future development.

He said the master plan will provide a look at what the airport might need in the next 20 years and create a strategy for funding potential improvements.

“We’re now looking at alternatives and the formulation of a long-term development plan for the airport,” he said of the current status of work that started last year. “The next step will be the financial plan.”

He said the study includes all aspects of the airport business, from small local planes to international traffic, including passenger and cargo flights, that pass through the facility.

Reed said the work, 90 percent of which is funded by the FAA, is important to ensure the airport continues to meet the needs of the community, travelers and various businesses.

“It’s a critical step related to future funding,” he told a crowd of about 20 gathered at the open house at City Hall.

As alternatives for expansion and upgrades continue to be considered by the consultants and members of the project’s community input committee, McFarland and Reed encouraged residents and airport users to provide feedback on efforts by emailing rst@flyrst.com by June 15.

“It’s incredibly important to take a thoughtful look at how the airport is serving the growing needs of our region,” Reed said in a statement released prior to Wednesday’s open house. “We are interested in hearing feedback from the community.”

Information on the master planning effort is available online at https://flyrst.com/airport/masterplan.

Another community engagement event is expected to be held in September.

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