Passenger service from Twin Cities to Dulles can happen, councilors told

LEWISTON — A $1.3 million local investment could buy the Twin Cities regular air service to Washington, D.C., councilors were told Thursday.

Auburn-Lewiston Municipal Airport Manager Rick Cloutier said he has talked with Express Jet about establishing regular, twice daily round-trip service between Auburn and Dulles International Airport. 

Tickets would cost about $111 one way, or $220 round trip. Flight service to Dulles would put the Twin Cities within one stop of 90 other air destinations, Cloutier said.

Cloutier briefed councilors from both Lewiston and Auburn at a special joint meeting Thursday on negotiations with regional air carriers and what the cities would need to do to make it happen.

He said an  Express Jet deal would require a new terminal building, tighter security and a dedicated airport fire service — about $1.3 million in new spending.

Councilors in 2008 told airport officials they wanted to see regular passenger service flying out of Auburn. Officials commissioned a study that said that's an attainable goal and began talking to some small regional airlines. Those are small carriers that could establish regular flights twice daily to larger markets, like Boston or New York. From there, passengers could connect to 27 of the top 30 destinations for Mainers, according to the study.

Cloutier told councilors in April that the airport could establish that kind of service within a year, if an airline is interested.

Since then, he's talked to several regional carriers, including Express Jet. That's a regional airline that's part of United Airlines network, meaning that flights originating in Auburn could easily tie into United's other flights.

Lewiston Councilor Betty Dube said she was against the new spending, worried about environmental impacts from airport expansions.

"I'm disappointed about doing this when we have a perfectly good airport half an hour away," she said. She also doubted it would make economic sense.

"I could see people from the community using it, but I don't think it will bring people here from outside of community," she said.

But Lewiston Councilor Nelson Peters said he considers passenger air service in Auburn necessary.

"I honestly believe this is vital to Lewiston-Auburn's future growth," he said. "If you want any kind of real expansion, if you want a convention center, you need to have an airport. It's not going to happen unless you have it, and I think this area's growth over the next 20 years depends on it."

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 's picture

I was surprised with Dulles

I was surprised with Dulles being selected. So, any businessmen from Boston/New York/ or elsewhere will continue to fly into Portland. Why do people think 30 minutes is sooo long? Ever try getting from Dulles into downtown D.C.? From San Fran airport into downtown San Fran? Takes about the same time as it takes to have an easy drive down the interstate to Portland.

Save the $1.3 million. How about attempting to get Concord Trailways to start providing routine service to the Jetport/Downeaster/Old Port area? Much more viable.

 's picture

Perhaps a better solution

Perhaps a better solution would be to have fast train service twixt here and Portland. I agree, major carriers are not going to want to come into LA when Porland is so close. Improve local mass transit is the way to go. Of course, the current city councils are not into that, so we must change them in Nov.

Michael Hobbs's picture

How does local mass

How does local mass transportation help get people to L-A? That's the whole point in local leaders trying to get a passanger airline and/or the rails moving.

Michael Hobbs's picture

No offense, but you can't

No offense, but you can't compare L-A to Sanford. Also why does everything that is planned in L-A a "pipe dream?" Again no offense, but I'd rather take a professional word against y'alls. If he feels it can happen who are we to say it couldn't? Lastly the service isn't just to DC, Dulles would perform as a connector much like JFK in New York is to Portland Jetport.

Roger Gagne's picture

Making a real airport in

Making a real airport in Auburn would be a great idea. But flying to Dulles? Lets get to Boston and New York first.

Michael Hobbs's picture

As was stated in the article

As was stated in the article if L/A doesn't want expansion and want to forever be known as 2 dying mill towns then the thought of an airport should just be thrown out. L/A needs to start thinking about itself and start being independent instead of relying on Portland for transportation needs. Having an airport will further help our (L/As) economy.May not be right away, but it will in due time. Tell me why would a business owner or a corporate business man want to start or expand its business to the area after having to drive 30-40 minutes from Portland after having flown to the state? Having an airport and/or having a railway system would show that L/A is no longer going to live in the past or settle for status quo. They both would give people the other options to come to the Twin Cities and that both cities are willing to finally take steps FORWARD. It is all about progress, NOT just for Lewiston or Auburn, but the community as a whole.

Keith Dutton's picture

The last time I flew out of

The last time I flew out of L/A was on a DC-3 to Boston in 1963. This proposal is a pipe dream.

First of all, the rest of the country has no problem with a 40 minute drive to an airport. Secondly, only flying to Dulles is severely limiting to a businessman. I used to live in Dover Delaware, and the nearest airport was in Philadelphia (70 miles) or BWI (100 miles). There were no problems there pulling in business. And I now live in central Illinois with good local air service, but no one ever thinks twice of driving 110 miles to Chicago to catch a plane.

It's an awful lot of money to invest just to rely on one carrier.

 's picture

How much will this cost the

How much will this cost the cities on an on-going basis after spending $1.3 million? Will we earn anything on this investment? All to save a few people from driving 30 minutes down the interstate.

How about investing in education instead?


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