Airport Wants to Lure Company Jets
November 11, 2011
By Cindy Wojdyla Cain
ROMEOVILLE — Lewis University Airport could be the premiere executive airport for the region, which would be a boon for economic development, officials said Thursday.
But it’s going to take big bucks for that to happen.
U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Western Springs, invited Christa Fornarotto, the FAA’s associate administrator for airports, to tour Lewis Airport on Thursday to show her the airport’s needs and potential.
Prior to the tour she met with local officials, including Romeoville Mayor John Noak, who talked about the airport’s importance to corporations looking to locate in the region.
The airport needs about $10 million in Federal Aviation Administration funding to renovate its original runway, which runs east and west and dates back to the 1960s.
“It was designed for small Cessna 172s and we now have Gulfstream corporate jets landing out here, so it’s obviously being stressed heavily,” said airport engineer Ron Hudson, of Hanson Professional Services.
The airport’s north-south runway, which cost $11.5 million, was completed in 2009.
Officials also would like to build the airport’s first control tower, which would attract more corporate jets to the site, said A. Chris Lawson, the airport’s director of aviation. The tower would cost about $5 million, he said.
Fornarotto said the FAA’s funding authorization expires Nov. 18. Congress hasn’t approved a long-term funding bill since 2007; there have been 22 short-term extensions since, she said. Prior to that, the FAA could grant money over 2-3 year cycles. Now it can only plan a few months at a time, she said.
Lipinski is working to pass an FAA funding reauthorization bill. He said he senses a thawing of the partisan freeze in Congress.
“I’m hoping we can get something done,” said Lipinski, whose 3rd Congressional District has been redrawn to include Romeoville and other portions of Will County after the 2012 election.
If the runway renovation money doesn’t come through soon, there’s only one thing airport officials can do, Lawson said.
“Then we’re filling potholes.”
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