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EGG HARBOR TWP., NJ-The South Jersey Transportation Authority has launched the first phase of a $92-million, five-stage capital improvements program at its Atlantic City International Airport here. Work is just under way on construction of a new 10,000-sf baggage screening facility with upgraded security, which is expecting to be completed next year at a cost of more than $7 million.

“This is the first step toward enhancing the airport as a destination for both business and leisure travelers,” says the authority’s chairman, Frank Spencer. The five-stage program, which has a target date of 2012 for completion, is the result of an engineering study done last year by the SJTA, which projected a passenger count of more than two million within the next decade. SJTA officials also hope to add more airlines to the list of those serving the facility. Scheduled airlines at Atlantic City International are currently limited to Spirit and Delta Connection/Comair.

The next phase on SJTA officials’ wish list is a new parking garage. The authority is currently accepting proposals for a facility with a capacity of a minimum capacity of 1,400 cars, and decline to put a price tag on the garage pending a final proposal. Further phases of the larger capital improvement program are aimed at making the facility “more customer friendly,” according to a spokesperson for the authority, which markets the airport as an alternative to some of the region’s more crowded airports. Its major competitors for the flying public are Newark Liberty International, about two hours to the north, and Philadelphia International, about an hour’s drive to the west.

Besides upgrades in internal circulation, notably new escalators to improve pedestrian traffic flow between the facility’s two levels, the master plan generated by last year’s engineering study also includes increasing the number of jetways from the current six to 14. An expansion of the terminal building itself is also part of the long-term plan, according to SJTA officials.

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