Lake in the Hills has been awarded a federal grant toward the reconstruction of a 3,800-foot runway at its municipal airport.
The much-anticipated funding announcement last week came as a surprise to village officials.
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"We knew the runway (funding) was coming eventually, we just didn't expect it this early," said Michael Peranich, the village's new airport manager. "It was a happy surprise on our end."
The Federal Aviation Administration granted the village permission to proceed with planning the runway improvements. The federal grant will cover 90 percent of the roughly $5 million project cost to reconstruct and widen the existing runway -- from 50 feet to 75 feet -- to meet FAA standards, Peranich said.
"Right now, our runway is below what the FAA considers to be minimum standards," he said. "This funding is to bring our runway up to current design standards for airports, which is 75 feet (width). This will be a significant safety improvement to airport operations."
Though the federal funding is approved, the money has not yet come through and is scheduled for allocation in fiscal year 2015. The state will cover 5 percent of the project cost, and the village will pay the remaining 5 percent through airport revenues.
"The work will have short-term impacts of improving the safety of the airport and creating construction jobs," Village President Paul Mulcahy said in a news release. "Long-term these improvements will support the economic development of McHenry County."
According to a recent study by the Illinois Department of Transportation, the Lake in the Hills Airport generates $28.7 million annually in economic benefits for the region.
The McHenry County airport logs roughly 34,000 takeoffs/landings yearly.
The length of the airport runway will remain the same. Runway improvements will not allow the airport to serve larger aircraft, but it will make landing under crosswind conditions much safer, Peranich said.
The village has hired the engineering firm Crawford, Murphy, and Tilly Inc., to do the planning and design work for the runway project.
"At the very least, one year, probably two years before we would see this work actually happen," Peranich said.
Meanwhile, the airport is in the midst of other safety upgrades.
"We're still working through the current project, which is the fuel farm installation at the airport and also the full-length parallel taxiway project," Peranich said.
Construction of an aircraft fueling area and a new fueling facility will begin this summer. That project is funded 90 percent through federal dollars and a $664,000 state grant, with the village contributing the remainder of the cost.
The taxiway project, now in its final phase, will involve demolition and relocation of the existing airport building, which is slated to be completed next year, Peranich said.
"They have finished roughly three-quarters of the work already," he said. "We're just doing the last few hundred feet of the taxiway, which also involves the building."
Though some interruptions are anticipated, the airport will remain functional while the taxiway work is being done.
"There will be some impact to traffic, (but) we're still open for business," Peranich said.