The Massachusetts Port Authority and the City of Worcester today signed an agreement on the transfer of Worcester Regional Airport. The transfer is mandated as part of the landmark transportation reform law signed by Governor Deval Patrick in 2009.
Massport will pay Worcester more than $15 million which represents city capital and operating costs at the airport for the last seven years, unamortized debt service that remains on the airport terminal, and the present value of the future retirement and health care benefits for airport retirees and active vested airport employees. Massport will assume all operating and capital costs at the airport, budgeted at nearly $5 million for fiscal year 2011. The complex transaction was approved by the Worcester City Council on June 1 and the Massport Board on June 17. It has received tentative approval from the Federal Aviation Administration.
Under the transfer, Massport will own the airport and be responsible for all its operating and capital costs. Over the last 10 years, Massport has managed the airport for the City of Worcester and paid a portion of the operating costs of the facility, which has two runways, including a 7,000 foot long runway with a precision instrument landing system and a $16 million terminal building with six gates.
Massport worked to bring Direct Air to Worcester, and the South Carolina-based airline has been flying from the airport to Florida and Myrtle Beach for more than 18 months and has seen a steady increase in passenger loads. Short-term growth at the airport will most likely be corporate general aviation with targeted niche commercial service such as Direct Air serving leisure markets.
The agreement calls for creation of an Airport Advisory Committee with nine representatives from Worcester and central Massachusetts.