Expanding Cargo Operations at Quonset
As I was commuting to work via Airport Road in Warwick the other day, the light turned red and a single UPS truck pulled out of the T.F. Greene Cargo terminal. This normal everyday occurrence got me wondering about how this was a really inefficient way to get cargo from airport to the highway. If cargo operations are to grow, then they need to have a more efficient method of getting the cargo to the major highways than through 5 or so sets of lights via Airport Road and Rt. 1 (Post Road) through Warwick. It looks like Kevin Dillon, head of RIAC, thinks Quonset may be the solution:
Dillon said the Quonset airport, as a result of more than $7 million in recently completed infrastructure improvements, including a new hangar, is a “real gem,” with the port, rail lines and enhanced Interstate 95 access part of or near the complex.
In addition to the Rhode Island National Guard facility, the Quonset airport is used for general aviation, with about 20,750 operations per year, including 5,800 by the military, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. Dillon noted that Quonset has “lots of room, so it lends itself to cargo growth.”
Cargo carriers in the past were concerned about limited highway access, but improvements to the Quonset access roads within the last 18 months should have satisfied those concerns, according to Dillon.
Most cargo in New England now goes through Logan International Airport in Boston and Bradley in Hartford, Conn. However, Dillon said, Logan is “constrained” by passenger flight needs, so there is opportunity for Green or Manchester “to step in and fill that void.”
Dillon also cited the voluntary curfew at Greene (midnight to 6 AM) as a restrictor on growth. Warwick’s Mayor Avedisian responded:
Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian said he was surprised to hear Dillon’s concerns about the curfew because the airport “violates it all the time.” Avedisian said the curfew has been in place more than 20 years, but “they don’t pay attention to it most of the time” and there are “many nights when they deviate from the curfew.” At the holiday season in December, Avedisian said, the curfew usually is lifted.
Told of the plan to redirect cargo traffic to Quonset, Avedisian said it was news to him and that airport officials, including Dillon, have assured him that cargo service would not be moved from the Warwick airport. “This just leaves the city further confused about what [the airport’s] plans are,” he said.
That confusion aside, there is real economic potential here.
“This represents a big opportunity, not only for the airport system, but for the entire state,” Dillon told Providence Business News. Cargo service “is a huge generator of employment.
“Just think of all the processing that takes place [when cargo is delivered],” Dillon continued. “This is more than just parochialism. I believe there’s a lot of employment opportunities that can be generated” by increasing cargo flights to the state….“It stands to reason [that more jobs would be created if cargo activity were expanded]. Just think of the nature of cargo, the processing and the handling. It creates a number of jobs just in terms of the airline itself,” he said.
However, the larger picture, Dillon said, suggests that for manufacturing and commercial sectors to flourish, “you need good cargo processing.” He spoke of spinoff jobs that would be created in manufacturing, the commercial sector, trucking firms and at support facilities, such as the FedEx office in Warwick, if more cargo came into Rhode Island.