Thursday, November 10, 2011

FAA, local officials tout plan to revamp runway at Lewis University Airport (KLOT), Chicago/Romeoville, Illinois.

Local and federal officials met Thursday morning to discuss funding options for revamping one of two runways at Lewis University Airport in Romeoville.

Congressman Dan Lipinski and Romeoville Mayor John Noak, were joined by FAA Associate Administrator for Airports Christa Fornarotto. All agreed the runway is old and cracking and that fixing it would allow larger airplanes and more corporate jets to land at the airport, which is operated by the Joliet Regional Port District .

“This [airport] is a fantastic asset to northeastern Will County, but this airport can be even more,” said Lipinki. “This airport could be the executive airport for the Chicagoland region.”

Repairing the runway would also spur economic development and create jobs in the area, officials said.

The runway was constructed in the 1960s, according to an airport engineering official, and was not built with the best construction techniques to handle the weight of larger aircraft.

The total cost for the runway repair would be about $4.8 million, officials said. With airplane activity increasing at the site, officials are also considering the construction of an air traffic control tower and a new runway ramp. However, those are secondary projects, and the cost for the new control tower and ramp is unclear, officials said.

Lipinski, a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Aviation Subcommittee, is working to help pass a long-term FAA reauthorization bill that provides more funding for the FAA’s airport improvement program. He said program funding would allow for the planned reconstruction of the runway.

Lipinki said he invited Fornarotto, who also oversees airport grants, to see the airport firsthand. Fornarotto and officials also took a tour of the runway, which showed cracks and minor bumps on the pavement in places.

“[The meeting] has helped give me a better understanding of what’s going on here,” said Fornarotto. “We are going to see what we can get done to advance these types of projects forward.”

Fornarotto said she is hoping money will be available in 2012, but added that the FAA needs the money to be released from the appropriation committee along with authority from the transportation infrastructure committee.

Noak, a board member of the Joliet Regional Port District, pointed out that revamping the airport would be an economic boom for the area.

“This would be an economic development tool to attract an even greater number of…companies to the area,” said Noak.

The airport accommodates 105,000 arrivals and departures annually and has attracted numerous Fortune 500 companies to the area, according to officials.

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