Today’s news:

Port Authority to take over upstate New York airport

The Port Authority said it expected to assume operations of Stewart International Airport, 55 miles north of New York City near Newburgh, N.Y., by October."The expansion of Stewart Airport is a critical component of the continued growth of the Hudson Valley," said Gov. Eliot Spitzer. "The Port Authority's action recognizes that vision and will create a major economic engine for the region with impacts that will reach far beyond the Hudson Valley. The airport will provide much-needed relief for our three major airports, greatly reduce delays and help prepare for inevitable population and passenger growth."The Port Authority board of directors last week approved the purchase of a 93-year lease on the airport from the British company National Express Corp. for $78.5 million.The Port Authority said Stewart handled 300,000 passengers in 2006 in comparison with 26 million at LaGuardia, which operates on 680 acres. Stewart has 2,400 acres, adequate for major expansion.LaGuardia, John F. Kennedy and Newark Liberty airports together accommodated 104 million passengers in 2006 which is near capacity with estimates of 150 million in less than 20 years.The Federal Aviation Administration reported that JFK, LaGuardia and Newark Liberty are the three most delayed airports in the nation, accounting for 78 percent of late flights.The Port Authority said it expected Stewart would end up accommodating thousands of passengers from northern Westchester, Rockland, Orange and Putnam counties who would otherwise fly out of LaGuardia, Kennedy or Newark Liberty.American Airlines, Air Tran Airlines, Jet Blue Airways, Northwest Airlines and U.S. Airways Express now serve Stewart.Stewart opened in 1930 as a civil aviation airport and became Stewart Air Force Base in 1948. It was a decommissioned as a military field in 1970.Reach reporter Phil Newman by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300 Ext. 136.

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