The St. Clair County Board has approved $1.4 million for the construction of a new roadway along taxiways at MidAmerica St. Louis Airport in Mascoutah.
Connecting the general aviation apron, or airplane preparation area, with the passenger loading area, the planned 3,663-foot road will provide an alternate route for fuel trucks, thereby keeping them off from the taxiway and away from any potential collisions with the aircraft.
A report by the Belleville News-Democrat said the Federal Aviation Administration will cover 90 percent of the cost for the construction, while the state will provide an additional 5 percent and local funding will pay for the remaining expenses.
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The roadway project follows the announcement in April of $835,000 in renovations to the facility that MidAmerica's Director Tim Cantwell told reporters will include upgrades — 90 percent of which will as well be covered by through a FFA grant — to its announcement system, jetway systems and entrance doors. The project is on track to start within the next few months.
The $313 million airport will reportedly remain open during the renovations.
Ed Cockrell, a Republican county commissioner who has suggested shifting oversight of MidAmerica from the county’s Public Building Commission to the board, recently created headlines when he complained to the News-Democrat that "taxpayers of St. Clair County and services are suffering because of the subsidization of MidAmerica Airport...everything from the election department to public safety.”
The county in 2015 transferred $6.5 million to the airport from its general fund, down from the $7.6 million it gave MidAmerica in 2014.
Out of last year's $6.5 million subsidy, $5.4 million was applied toward its initial building debt, Cantwell said.
In response to Cockrell's assertion the airport causes an undue burden to the county and its residents, Cantwell recounted how MidAmerica was built at the behest of federal aviation officials — who, back in the mid-1990s, projected significant jumps in passenger traffic — and also local area leaders, who envisioned it becoming a joint-use airfield for nearby Scott Air Force Base.
Today, after weathering 9/11 and all the unforeseen tumult in the airline industry, and then overcoming the more typical pains that come with sinking business roots in an otherwise under-served and undeveloped area, Cantwell said the airport has grown.
"We opened in 1998 with a zero book of business," he said. "Now MidAmerica is among Illinois' top 13 airports with an estimated 10,000 passenger flights annually."
In addition, the airport just hit a marketing first, topping 1.3 million gallons of airplane fuel sold by September.