What's New With Our Tri-State Area Airports

In an effort to keep you informed about current events and issues affecting your business travel, here are some of the latest headlines surrounding our tri-state area airports: LaGuardia, Kennedy, Newark Liberty and Westchester County Airports.

• Newark Airport Unveils Information Avatar. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has installed a life-size "avatar" at Newark Liberty International Airport. The two-dimensional digital hologram of a uniformed woman is named Libby, and is able to speak to travelers and offer automated responses to questions.

Libby is the first of three avatars at tri-state area airports – two more avatars will be installed by mid-August at LaGuardia Airport's Central Terminal Building and Kennedy Airport's Terminal 5, according to a Port Authority of New York and New Jersey press release. The three avatars together cost a total of $ 180,000, and are part of a program launched in May to improve customer service at area airports. The program also includes docking stations for phones and laptops, and 70 new customer service employees at Newark, Kennedy and LaGuardia.

• MIT Study Names Kennedy Airport Top Germ Spreader. John F. Kennedy Airport is known around the world as a hub of international travel, but researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have made it a different distinction: JFK is the number one "super-spreader" of contagious diseases among airports.

MIT's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering looked at the 40 largest American airports to determine what role they play, if any, in spreading contagious diseases. For the study, the researchers evaluated an airport's location, number of connections, and waiting times to create a mathematical model that determined how fast infectious disease could spread in 15 days from the airport. After JFK, MIT found the top germ spreaders to be Los Angeles International, Honolulu, San Francisco, Newark Liberty, Chicago O'Hare and Washington Dulles. An airport's "top germ spreader" status does not necessarily mean that the airport is germ or disease-hidden-instead, it means the airport is a predictor for how a contagious disease would spread from that airport through the world.

• Westchester County Airport Awarded More Than $ 1.6 Million for Renovations. In July, Westchester County Airport was awarded two grant agreements totaling more than $ 1 million to fund safety and environmental improvement efforts at the airport.

The grants are a result of the Westchester County Board of Legislators (BOL) approving to accept grant funding from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The BOL also amended the 2012 Capital Budget to pay the County's share of projects involving storm water management and runway rehabilitation.

The legislation for the grant agreements received unanimous, bipartisan support from the BOL, and were also recommended for passage by Westchester County Executive Robert Astorino, and then vetted through Westchester County's Planning and Budget departments.

One of the FAA grant agreements is for a storm water management project in which the FAA will provide 90 percent of the costs. The remaining 10 percent will come from the Airport Special Revenue Funds, which is not dependent on the County tax levy.

The second grant will be used to fund the rehabilitation of Taxiway "A," including upgrades of markings, lighting, signage and drainage of the northern sections of the taxiway. The two grants total $ 1.1 million, with no cost to the County's taxpayers, and the remaining $ 110,000 in costs coming from the Airport Special Revenue Fund.

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