The Port Authority Board of Commissioners in January authorizedthe purchase of the operating lease from National Express Corp. ofthe UK for $78.5 million, and in September approved more than $17million in future parking and roadway improvements. The lease runsthrough 2099.

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Since the Port Authority expressed interest in utilizing Stewartas a facility to help alleviate congestion at its New York Cityarea airports in late 2006, JetBlue and AirTran have launchedservice at Stewart and passenger air traffic utilizing the facilityhas tripled. At Thursday morning's press conference it wasannounced that SkyBus would begin air service to Columbus andGreensboro, NC beginning in early 2008. Political and businessleaders believe that with the Port Authority at the controls,Stewart International Airport could be a catalyst for growth forOrange County and the entire region.

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"The Port Authority has the resources and expertise to helpStewart International Airport realize its potential as a majortransportation hub for this vastly expanding region," says Gov.Spitzer. "As I stated in my inaugural address, the expansion ofStewart International Airport will help to stimulate economicdevelopment in the Hudson Valley and beyond, and with our SmartGrowth Initiative we will ensure responsible planning andenvironmentally sound growth. Additional air capacity at Stewartwill also help ease congestion currently afflicting ourincreasingly stressed metropolitan airports as we near theircapacity and plan for future population and passenger growth."

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Port Authority executive director Anthony Shorris says, "Likethe entire Hudson Valley, Stewart is primed for growth, and thePort Authority is perfectly positioned to make that growth areality. We know how to make airports work for their passengers andtheir communities, and we look forward to taking on this challengewith help from the new Stewart Citizen's Advisory Panel and Gov.Spitzer's Lower Hudson Smart Growth Planning Initiative."

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The Regional Smart Growth Initiative announced by the governorwill include the establishment of a state planning council and astate commitment of $500,000 in grants to local communities to planfor increased growth and development in the region in connectionwith the planned growth at Stewart International Airport, stateofficials say. Port Authority officials add that the agency hasbeen in active discussions with air carriers that currently offerscheduled flights to several cities in Florida, as well as Atlanta,Detroit and Philadelphia, to come to Stewart.

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John Jordan

John Jordan is a veteran journalist with 36 years of print and digital media experience.