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OpinionEditorial

Use millions to transform Long Island MacArthur Airport

Passengers arrive for their flights at Long Island

Passengers arrive for their flights at Long Island MacArthur Airport on Thursday, Sept. 17, 2015. Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

Two years ago, the state budget created a $550 million pot for economic development to “transform” Long Island.

A lot has been doled out to a lot of good projects — like research initiatives at Brookhaven National and Cold Spring Harbor labs and Stony Brook and Hofstra universities that could help reshape the Island’s economy through innovations that produce high-paying jobs. Money also went to redevelopments at the Nassau and Ronkonkoma hubs and to sewers needed in downtown Kings Park and Smithtown.

That leaves $150 million. And the kitty could be bigger depending on the status of $50 million earmarked for the Feinstein Institute’s now-canceled plans for a medical research center at the Nassau Hub.

So, the possible $200 million question is: What to spend it on?

There are good ideas still on the wish list compiled by the region’s business and political leaders — like a bus rapid-transit system along Nicolls Road in Suffolk County and a new train station at BNL. But our state senators should resist the reflexive urge to get some for their districts.

It’s time to put a lot of eggs in one basket. It’s time to fully fund a new terminal on the north side of Long Island MacArthur Airport.

That, too, is on the wish list. The state already has committed $20 million for a new customs facility and a direct connection between the airport and the Long Island Rail Road. It doesn’t get more direct than the short distance from the Ronkonkoma station and that huge redevelopment to a terminal just across the tracks. And there are few game-changers bigger for the region than one that finally would unlock the airport’s potential — through international travel, more domestic flights, and faster connections via the ongoing second rail project in Suffolk and the third track proposal in Nassau.

With prospects uncertain for a federal infrastructure bill, Long Island’s state senators and business leaders should make a full-court press on Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo for the $100 million, give or take, needed for the terminal, while making sure that Suffolk and the Town of Islip, which owns the airport, are kicking in. They’ll probably find a willing champion in the infrastructure-happy governor.

Then they all can share the credit for helping to transform Long Island, and still have something left in the bank.— The editorial board

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