Dan Carstens owned the largest cargo company at Bradley International Airport; four years ago he decided he’d had enough.
“When you are trying to get things done in an hourly fashion, or instantly, it can take days,” the Windsor Locks resident said, explaining why he decided to sell his company.
And Carstens said the process hasn’t sped up since he left, according to the daily conversations he still has with those in the business.
“It’s still horrible,” he said Monday while standing outside the main terminal at Bradley after listening to Democratic gubernatorial nominee Dan Malloy‘s plans for the state-owned and operated airport.
Malloy said he would reject any efforts to sell the airport, a proposal House Republicans made earlier this year. He also dismissed Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell‘s proposal to privatize the operations at Bradley.
But that’s not to say Malloy believes the status quo is working — he said he knows government bureaucracy is hindering development at Bradley.
“I think we have a solution,” he said, promising to replace the current decision-making process with a five-to 11-member Bradley Airport Authority that will have jurisdiction over pertinent decisions.
Judd Everhart, state Department of Transportation spokesman, said the Bradley Board of Directors currently handles most decisions surrounding the airport and the General Assembly the remainder. That panel is comprised of six members –including the transportation and economic development commissioners– and meets once a month.
Everhart said he believes Connecticut ranks “right in the middle” among other airports in the country for turnaround time.
But Malloy said Monday that it is still taking too long, which is why his proposed independent panel “can literally turn on a dime” to make day-to-day decisions.
“I think what is lacking is the ability to make the changes necessary in a timely fashion,” he said.
Liz Osborn, spokeswoman for Republican gubernatorial nominee Tom Foley, said she thinks Malloy’s plan will just end up costing money.
“When have you ever heard of a new government program that didn’t end up costing you more money?” she asked, but said Foley has yet to announce his plans for Bradley. “Tom believes we need a master transportation plan, and Bradley needs to be a part of it. It is wrong to make these kinds of decisions independent of a master plan, all the pieces must work together.”
While air passengers nationally decreased by 4 percent from October 2008 to October 2009, passengers at Bradley decreased by almost 9 percent, reports the non-partisan Office of Legislative Research.
Malloy painted a more grim picture, saying the number of passengers at Bradley has declined by 23 percent –to 5.6 million passengers– from fiscal 2006 to 2009.
Fred V. Carstensen, who heads the Connecticut Center for Economic Analysis, said for every 1 million passengers the state sheds, 10,000 jobs are lost.
“The airport is an underdeveloped asset for the state,” he said, adding that the state Department of Transportation should not be in control of the operations of a potential economic hub. “There is so much potential but the way the airport functions is just idiotic.”
Carstensen said how the airport is funded –solely through concession sales, parking and fees tacked onto flights– does nothing to incentivize DOT to spur economic development.
“They protect their revenue sources,” he said, pointing to the lack of public transportation to the airport because it could mean a decline in parking revenue. “The airport lacks leadership in this state. Their business model has to change.”
Carstens agrees much needs to change, but the bad experience he had with the bureaucracy at Bradley is too much for him to ever get back into the air-cargo business.
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