Municipal airport's new runway eyed as boon

Thursday, October 12, 2000

By Phil Rockrohr

The Star

A new runway at the Lansing Municipal Airport will be an economic boon to the village and South Suburbs, village officials said Tuesday.

Lansing officials plan to seek bids in January for the first phase of the project and hope builders break ground by May 1.

Trustee Patti Leach, chairman of the Village Board's Aviation Committee, and Airport Manager Bob Malkus announced the plans to the board during its Committee-of-the-Whole meeting.

Leach and Malkus met last week in Springfield with officials of the Illinois Department of Transportation's Division of Aeronautics and the Federal Aviation Administration.

Leach called the annual review of Lansing's airport expansion "a good meeting" and reported that financing appears to be in place to begin the $5.4 million project.

Lansing will seek bids for the first phase, expected to cost about $2.4 million, in January 2001, she said. The village will seek bids for the $3 million second phase in March 2001, Leach said.

"We hope by May 1 we will see the first ground and dirt moved," she said. "We hope the whole thing will be done in one construction season."

Malkus predicted the project will be completed within two constructions seasons, or by September 2002, depending on how soon work actually begins.

"All the permits will be ready by the first of the year," Leach said.

The installation of fencing around the perimeter of the airport, Glenwood-Lansing Road and Burnham Avenue, is scheduled to begin today, Malkus said.

Federal and state grants will cover 95 percent of the cost of constructing the 4,000-foot-long runway, which will run north-south near the current 3,658-foot east-west runway, he said.

Lansing's total cost is expected to be about $250,000, which the village has already set aside in an interest-bearing account, Malkus said.

Leach said Lansing long planned to build the new runway, but the timing of the proposed project could not be better.

Meigs Field in Chicago is scheduled to close in 2002 or 2003, she said.

At the same time, a new Ford plant is expected to be built two or three miles north of the Municipal Airport, Leach said.

Meanwhile, the Professional Golfers Association is scheduled to hold a major tournament in Olympia Fields in 2003, she added.

"We're getting this done at the right time," Leach said. "We want to get part of that action coming to the area in the next few years."

Malkus went even further, predicting that shortly after the new runway is built, one or two "major developments" will locate along Burnham Avenue to take advantage of access to the airport.

"If the corporate community seeks that runway in Lansing, they will be very interested," he said. "There are only two other corporate airports in Cook County, and both of them are up north."

The Municipal Airport handles about 65,000 to 75,000 landings and takeoffs each year, Malkus said. That number is expected to increase by only 10 percent when the new runway is opened, he said.

The purpose of the project is not to increase air traffic, but to improve safety and add convenience at the airport, Malkus said.

"We don't have the capacity for more aircraft," he said. "We just plan to make it easier and safer."

The new runway will contain "navigational aids," and allow planes to land on runways in two different directions, depending on weather conditions, Malkus said.

Trustee Dan Podgorski said the airport will still handle the same size planes it serves now.

"It's important that people understand that," Podgorski said, "just so they don't pick up the newspaper and think American Airlines is opening a new hub here."

Malkus called the project a "new plateau for the airport." He said Lansing acquired six parcels of land totaling some 300 acres to make room for the runway.

Phil Rockrohr may be reached at (708) 802-8804.