In the ongoing tit-for-tat between the two Allegheny County Executive candidates, Democrat Rich Fitzgerald has released his plan for development at Pittsburgh International Airport. The short document released Wednesday by Fitzgerald focuses on three major efforts.
Marcellus Shale Drilling
Throughout the primary, Fitzgerald has called for Marcellus Shale drilling on airport land. His most recent position paper remains consistent with that, with a few amplifications.
Federal Aviation Administration rules stipulate that any money produced from operations, such as drilling, on airport property must stay with the airport authority, said Fitzgerald. "We're going to work with our congressional delegation and the FAA to see if we can kind of split that. I think 50% of that money should stay at the airport, making it more cost competitive, but I also believe the other half of that money should go to the taxpayers of Allegheny County in the form of property tax relief," said Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald said he would be "hesitant" to allow drilling if the revenues were not split. He also would call for public hearings in the communities near the airport before approving a deal.
Fitzgerald's plan also envisions an increase in the number of flights that move through the airport. While "origination and destination" traffic at Pittsburgh International has increased, the number of flights in and out of the airport is substantially down since US Airways pulled its hub out of Pittsburgh. Others, including County Executive Dan Onorato, have tried to attract more airlines and encourage existing airlines to move hub-like operations here, with limited success. Fitzgerald thinks he can do better.
"We're going to be pretty aggressive," said Fitzgerald. " My ability to sell — and I've been doing it my whole life in a private business — and providing to the customer what the customer wants, trying to provide the incentives that will allow that to happen, I think we've got a pretty good chance."
Fitzgerald also plans to continue efforts to bring east coast overflow flights to Pittsburgh.
Fitzgerald's plan calls for the county to use its World Trade Center designation to create a new business park just west of the airport's parking lot. The area would be designated a World Trade Zone, which would allow international businesses to take advantage of lower tariffs.
"This would obviously attract business from every sector: manufacturing, high tech, biotech, energy, et cetera," said Fitzgerald.
Republican candidate D. Raja released his plan for development at the airport last week.