The Telegraph – April 24, 2014 – By Nathan Woodside
BETHALTO — St. Louis Regional Airport in Bethalto will undergo several major upgrades over the next year.
Airport manager say more improvements coming
Last week, Gov. Pat Quinn announced the facility will receive a $1.6 million grant to reconstruct a taxiway for easier use by large planes.
“We’ve got a long, parallel taxiway that’s got a turn in it that’s in an inconvenient spot,” said St. Louis Regional Airport manager David Miller. “With larger and larger aircraft coming in, they’re having a little difficulty negotiating that jog in the taxiway structure.”
Davis said the airport applied for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) funding through the state. The Illinois Department of Transportation also contributes to the grant program. The airport itself will chip in about 5 percent of the total cost. The funding is part of the FAA’s Airport Improvement Program, funded through airline ticket and cargo taxes.
Construction on the project isn’t expected to begin until next year.
Miller said the change isn’t indicative of any danger or poor design. It’s the product of a growing airport, evolving aviation needs and new FAA regulations.
This summer, crews are expected to complete another project ordered by new FAA standards. A utility runway was deemed to end too close to State Route 140, so 300 ft. of asphalt was taken from the end and added to the front side.
That regulation was enacted following a 2005 accident at Chicago Midway, when a Southwest Airlines 747 slid off a runway into vehicle traffic, killing one.
Miller said it can be difficult to keep up with increasing mandated upgrades. The airport relies almost solely on federal grants to fund the high-dollar projects, which can be a slow process.
“The FAA realizes that a lot of these things, you have to slowly phase in,” Miller said. “There’s not enough dump trucks to haul in all the money needed to get all this done at all the airports, all at the same time. They work on a priority system and we just wait in line until our priority number comes up.”
Further improvements are planned, including the opening of a new 43,000-square-foot hangar by summer, and another project updating the wiring for runway lighting. An issue with that system was discovered during the recent installation of an airfield lighting vault.
Overall, Miller said the health of the St. Louis Regional Airport is extremely good. The facility hosts approximately 70 tenants and leases to several businesses along Route 140.
Of the five salient airports in the St. Louis area, also including Lambert, St. Louis Downtown, Spirit of St. Louis and St. Louis MidAmerica, Miller said St. Louis Regional stands out from the pack in one critical area.
“We’re the only one that’s in the black.”