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IC Airport funded with stimulus money

BY KATHLEEN SERINO | MARCH 26, 2009 7:40 AM

A project to rebuild Iowa City Municipal Airport’s runway is finally taking off.

Iowa City’s airport will receive $2.5 million in federal stimulus funds to reconstruct its more than 50-year-old runway, Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, announced on March 20.

The airport, at 1801 S. Riverside Drive, joins two other Iowa airports — Waterloo Regional and Sioux Gateway — in garnering more than $10 million in aviation grants from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, according to the Iowa Department of Transportation.

“I’m happy that we got a piece of it,” said Michael Tharp, operations specialist for the Iowa City airport.

Local officials had been waiting to receive the funds, which will accelerate many of the airport’s rehabilitation projects — mainly replacing its runway, he said.

The reconstruction entails a complete repaving of the roughly 5,004-by-100-foot runway, Tharp said.

Federal funding will replace the runway — which has cracks, weather-related scaling of pavement, and fragmentation of its surface — with a brand new platform, said Tharp, who is also a licensed pilot.

While the state of the runway isn’t extremely hazardous, the ancient strip has reached the end of its life cycle and is threatening to damage aircraft, he said.

“Projects in general have various degrees of priorities,” he said. “The ones that affect safety and use are among the top. And that’s what our runway system is.”

Iowa City’s airport is nearly 90 years old and only services small planes and business jets no larger than 16 seats, he said.

The small facility may run on a more minor scale than most commercial airports, but many of its functions are significant to the community.

Tharp said the airport makes room for several helicopter operations on any given day, including organ donors and critical patient transfers to the UI Hospitals and Clinics. In total, the air station has roughly 30,000 takeoffs and landings annually.

Tharp said funding for the reconstruction will create 50 to 60 jobs — 20 or 30 for every $1 million — but was unsure if these new jobs would be long-term.

Robert Grierson, the director of the Dubuque Regional Airport, noted the stimulus package dispensed only $1.1 billion in grant money for aviation in all U.S. states and territories.
“I’m glad that the money is coming into the state,” he said.

Dan Mann, the director of the Eastern Iowa Airport, applied for $5.2 million in stimulus funding to relieve aviation traffic with a new taxiway, the driving space for planes separate from the runway.
But he said he realized his facility’s needs weren’t as profound as Iowa City’s.

“Runways have a higher priority than taxiways,” he said.

The airport in Cedar Rapids services 61,000 operations each year.

Tharp said construction on Iowa City’s airport runway is set to begin in late May or early June.


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