By Cindy Wojdyla Cain
Federal funding is being released this week that will be used for runway repairs at Lewis University Airport.
The $2.4 million grant was included in a Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill that U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Western Springs, helped write and pass in February. Lipinski invited Christa Fornarotto, the FAA's associate administrator for airports, to tour Lewis Airport in November to show her the airport's needs and potential.
At the time, airport officials said they needed about $10 million in FAA funds to renovate the airport's original runway, which runs east and west and dates back to the 1960s, and another $5 million for the airport's first control tower.
Airport project manager Ron Hudson, of Hanson Professional Services Inc., said the FAA grant will allow Lewis Airport to begin the first phase of repairs.
"That will be a two-phase project," he said. "We hope to get the rest of the money for the project next year."
The project was bid in March and the low bidder was P.T. Ferro of Joliet.
"Now that there is money, they can make the award," Hudson said referring to officials from the Joliet Regional Port District, which owns and operates the airport.
No money was included in the FAA bill for a control tower.
Lipinski, whose 3rd Congressional District will include Romeoville and other portions of Will County after the 2012 election, said the runway repair money will help the airport to attract more businesses to northern Will County and southwest Cook County.
"I'm very pleased to have helped provide this funding for Lewis University Airport so that it can continue to grow and attract new businesses and jobs to Romeoville, Lockport, and the surrounding communities," said Lipinski, who sits on the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee's Aviation Subcommittee.
"This is an urgently needed step in building the airport's potential as a magnet for economic growth. I'm going to continue working to ensure that the federal government recognizes the need to enhance capacity at Lewis University Airport and invest in its future."
The airport handles 105,000 arrivals and departures annually.