ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - One of the candidates for mayor has proposed spending to expand $300 million on the Albuquerque International Sunport.
Democrat candidate Pete Dinelli claims it will make the city a travel leader. The other candidates and Sunport passengers, however, are scratching their heads wondering why.
“Wow! I don't think it's a necessary expansion,” Sunport passenger and Rio Rancho resident Gweneth Ward said.
Dinelli released part of his economic agenda Tuesday.
"We can energize Albuquerque with an international airport expansion,” he said. “I want to see a hub either out of an airline or cargo carrier. The reality is Albuquerque isn't leading. It's time for Albuquerque to start leading and as mayor, I will do that.”
Many people in the audience clapped for his idea, but there isn't any clapping coming from the other candidates.
Paul Heh said there needs to be job growth and increased business growth in Albuquerque to warrant such an expansion.
“I think it's working just fine,” said Heh, a former Albuquerque cop. “Maybe in the future once we get our economy going, then we can look at it. But not now, it's absolutely not necessary now.”
The city says 5.4 million air passengers used the Sunport last year and a recent JetBlue acquisition with a direct flight to New York City helped bump traffic.
With some ticket counters sitting empty, the city said there's room to grow without expanding. In fact, it's capable of taking in an extra 4 million passengers per year.
“To risk $300 million would be simply unwise and a waste of taxpayer dollars,” deputy chief administrative officer Gilbert Montaño said. “Our airport is more than adequate, more than sufficient for international flights.”
The rest of Dinelli's economic plan includes creating up to 20,000 jobs through infrastructure projects and building manufacturing centers. The other candidates have not yet released their plans in full.
Mayor Richard Berry was out of town Tuesday, but his campaign described Dinelli's plans as tax and spend proposals that threaten the city's future.
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