Metro-East News

County approves future MidAmerica Airport improvement plans

The St. Clair County Public Building Commission on Thursday approved MidAmerica Airport’s updated five-year capital improvement proposal plan, which includes an expansion and rehabilitation of the airport’s parking lot next year.

The list of proposed projects includes passenger terminal work, which was scheduled for 2016, but delayed when bids came in higher than anticipated. The estimated $566,000 project would be paid for with 90 percent federal dollars.

Federal dollars also would make up 90 percent of the cost of a planned loading bridge improvement project estimated at $400,000, documents say.

“We’ve milked them for their historic use, of 15 years,” said Tim Cantwell, airport director. “It’s now 20 years.”

The airport becomes eligible for federal entitlement money when it reaches 10,000 passengers flying out of the airport per year.

After expanding the parking lot this year, airport officials also want to expand it again and rehabilitate the existing lot, airport documents say. The estimated $664,000 project would be paid for with half state money and half local money.

Cantwell said there is discussion taking place with the state about increasing the state share to 80 percent.

Increased parking at the airport will be needed as frequency of flights is expected to increase, Cantwell said.

He also said there could be an increase in destinations, but he would not disclose anything further.

“One of the issues today, is when we go into peak, starting into November, all the way through to May, because of holiday season and spring break, and we’ll go into summer time with more pressure, we don’t have room to do maintenance,” Cantwell said. “I can’t cordon off any of the parking spots. Where do I put them? … We’ve got some things to wrestle with, which are in the engineering and planning side.”

In future years, officials also hope to rehabilitate airport access roads for $912,000. Federal dollars would pay for 90 percent of that project; local and state sources would each pay for 5 percent of the project.

Other projects on the wish list in future years include a $4.98 million runway shoulder widening project and a $2.9 million taxiway shoulder widening for wide-body 747s, and a passenger terminal expansion for $5 million, according to airport documents. Federal dollars would pay for 90 percent of the cost of those projects if they come to fruition.

The airport is required each year to submit a five-year plan to the Illinois Department of Transportation’s Division of Aeronautics and the Federal Aviation Administration.

“Similar submittals from other airports will be aggregated by the (Division of Aeronautics) to produce the IDOT FY2018-2022 Airport Improvement program,” according to a memo to commissioners.

Increased flight frequency

Allegiant Air has released its summer 2017 flight schedule, Cantwell said.

Routes with increased frequency include the one to Destin, Fla., to five times a week, up from three flights.

Flights to Jacksonville, Fla., are scheduled to start in April, which would be earlier than this year. This year, the Jacksonville flights started in May.

Orlando flights also increased in frequency.

Change order

The recent parking lot expansion at MidAmerica, which added 277 spots to help deal with increased flights, came in $40,500 under budget, bringing the final cost to about $547,500.

Commissioners approved a change order request on Thursday.