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Federal infrastructure law includes almost $800,000 for Charles City airport

Federal infrastructure law includes almost $800,000 for Charles City airport
North Cedar Aviation Authority Chair Jeff Sisson, left, and Northeast Iowa Regional Airport Manager Bill Kyle look over the many planes undergoing maintenance and inspections in the Charles City Aeronautics shop Wednesday afternoon after the regular monthly meeting of the aviation authority. Kyle is also president of Charles City Aeronautics, which in addition to being the fixed-base operator at the Charles City airport, also owns North Iowa Air Service which is the FBO at the Mason City Airport and Central Iowa Air Service which is the FBO at the Ames airport. Five planes were in the Charles City shop Wednesday, including a Beechcraft Super King Air undergoing a major inspection and maintenance. Press photo by Bob Steenson
By Bob Steenson, [email protected]

The Northeast Iowa Regional Airport near Charles City will receive almost $800,000 in extra federal funds over the next five years that can be spent on airport capital improvement projects and perhaps other airport uses.

The money is part of $2.89 billion made available to 3,075 airports across the country in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law proposed by President Biden and passed by Congress.

The Charles City airport’s share of that will be $159,000 per year for the five years, or a total of $795,000, and the North Cedar Airport Authority is beginning to look at ways that money might be used.

“We have a need for a crosswind runway that’s now grass, that needs to be paved,” said Jeff Sisson, the chair of the North Cedar Airport Authority, the public body that owns and controls the airport.

“We really need hangar space, but we need to do more paving, too — enlarge the current runway to 5,500 feet,” Sisson said.

One of the airport’s highest priorities is to extend the current paved runway, known as runway 12/30, from its current 4,000-foot length and 75-foot width to 5,500 feet long and 100 feet wide, to handle larger and more frequent jet traffic.

That multi-year project is currently in the airport five-year capital improvement plan to begin land acquisition in fiscal year 2025, which begins July 1, 2024.

Eric Johnson, an engineering consultant through Clapsaddle-Garber Associates, the airport’s engineering firm, told the airport authority at its regular monthly meeting Wednesday afternoon that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not come out with a lot of guidance yet on how the new money can be spent, but airport capital improvement projects are definitely on the list.

“They’re still, on their end, trying to sort out all the details on how this money is going to be allocated, when they can allocate it, what exactly eligible items are going to be,” Johnson told the airport board via videoconference.

“We know now that can be used for normal airport improvement projects,” he said. “We’re still waiting to see if it can be utilized for any kind of local airport sponsor match on any particular airport improvement project.”

Projects funded by the FAA typically require a 10% local match from the airport, although the $3.1 million taxiway relocation and improvement project recently finished at the Charles City airport was funded 100% with federal funds because of additional COVID-19 relief money.

The runway extension project has an estimated price tag including land acquisition of about $12 million, which at a 10% local match means the airport authority would have to come up with $1.2 million.

Sisson asked if the money could be used for debt service, and Johnson said the FAA has not yet addressed that.

Johnson said that over the next couple of months the airport authority is going to need to take a look at its five-year capital improvement plan and its airport layout plan to identify projects that might qualify or that can be moved up in the schedule.

In its announcement of the funding, the FAA said the money “can be invested in runways, taxiways, safety and sustainability projects, as well as terminal, airport-transit connections and roadway projects.”

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said, “The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law has given us a once-in-a-generation opportunity to build safer and more sustainable airports that connect individuals to jobs and communities to the world.”

Iowa airports will receive at least $24.5 million in federal infrastructure grant funds this year.

“With this new funding, urban, regional and rural airports across the country now can get to work on projects that have waited for years, modernizing their infrastructure and building a better America,” Buttigeig said.

The FAA encouraged applicants to prioritize projects “that increase airport safety, equity and sustainability.” Airports can submit proposals to the FAA for review in the coming weeks.

Also at the meeting Wednesday, the airport authority learned it had received a letter of concurrence from the FAA, giving the go-ahead on a $165,500 runway rehabilitation project for runway 12/30. That project, which would be completed this fiscal year, includes crack sealing, pavement patching and new markings.

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