Group - St. Louis airport needs millions in revenue

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

ST. LOUIS -- Lambert Airport will need to raise $35 million to $50 million in revenue annually to be a competitive, growing airport after a runway expansion project opens, said a group that studied the airport's future. The group was formed last August to determine what the airport could do to attract and retain flights and jobs.

That came while the airport was working on a $1.1 billion runway expansion project, as American Airlines cut its flights in St. Louis by about half, and as the airline industry faced changes after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Slay said Monday that three former U.S. senators -- John Danforth, Thomas Eagleton and Alan Dixon -- will join an effort to find a regional approach to airport governance and financing.

Retired Sara Lee Bakery chief executive Barry Beracha has agreed to work for a year without pay. He'll meet with airport Director Leonard Griggs to try to bring the runway expansion project in on time and on budget.

The report by business leaders suggested the work on the runway, scheduled to open in 2006, was six months behind schedule, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported on its Web site

Beracha and Griggs will try to streamline operations and use any savings to make improvements at the airport, said Slay. They'll work with airlines, including American and Southwest Airlines, to try and increase flights at Lambert.

Slay said some progress has been made, pointing to 40 new flights added since the reductions, $12 million in operating budget cuts, a $170 million reduction in construction and capital budgets, and the securing of $85 million in FAA grants. The changes also have meant a 25 percent reduction in the workforce.

The business organizations Civic Progress, the Regional Business Council and the St. Louis Regional Chamber & Growth Association set up the 17-member airport task force.

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