BOSTON — The Baker administration is set to announce later today that the New Bedford Regional Airport has been given a $216,000 grant from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, to continue the ongoing expansion of commercial air service.

Senator Mark Montigny (D-New Bedford) tells WBSM News the grant means state funds are covering 80 percent of the expansion costs.

"So that takes a real burden off the local taxpayers, because the City of New Bedford and the tax base is stretched enough," Montigny said. "If we don't bring home the federal and state resources, the local taxpayer pays more, or goes without the local job creation that comes with this kind of opportunity."

He said that's why he's fought so hard for New Bedford to get the funds needed to make transportation improvements.

"By making New Bedford the transportation hub for the region, between the pier, the airport and rail freight transportation, you're enhancing the economy," Montigny said. "So what we've tried to do with the legislature the last few years is pump millions of dollars into improving the airport for expanded commercial flight. This grant is in line with that. We're getting a lot of good work done, and this is kind of the finishing touches."

Montigny said it's not just this grant, but the overall five-year plan that the legislature bonded for several million dollars that shows the confidence the state has in New Bedford as a hub of transportation.

"In a climate where airports like Logan are completely stretched and overtaxed, we're benefitting, and with it comes potentially tremendous job creation," Montigny said. "It's not just a luxury that bigger airlines fly to Nantucket or (Martha's) Vineyard. There's all kinds of commercial opportunities for both passenger and freight, and it creates a larger transportation hub. It's absolute recognition by the state that New Bedford's airport is key, and it's underutilized."

Montigny said the airport grant and expansion gets him "more excited about the overall bigger economic picture," going beyond just the job creation that comes with expanding the airport and adding additional services.

"The bigger picture is, you can't attract the companies here you want, unless you have the right port access, rail access and airport access, and we're working on all of those, but they need more state and federal resources," he said. "(But) one of the things we've been very good at is convincing the governor that spending on capital projects here, on State Pier, on commuter rail, on the airport are far better investments than doing it in the overcrowded, overpriced and overhyped city of Boston."

More From WBSM-AM/AM 1420