April 17, 2001 Chicago Tribune

Special to the Tribune
April 17, 2001

Calling Palwaukee Municipal Airport a treasure and a resource vital to the economic future of the region, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) on Monday joined state and local officials at a ceremony breaking ground on a taxiway that promises to cut noise, improve safety and enhance airport operations.

"This is not just about concrete landing strips and runways," Durbin said.

General aviation airports such as Palwaukee are important to attract and retain companies that rely on corporate jets, Durbin said.

The $5.5 million taxiway is being built with $4.9 million in federal funds and $600,000 in state and local money. It is the first of four major improvements planned in the next few years.

The 4,300-foot taxiway will run along the east side of the runway and be used by aircraft preparing for takeoff or returning after landing. Pilots must now use the runway for those procedures.

Palwaukee is the fourth-busiest airport in the state, handling 180,000 annual operations.

According to Lou Wipotnik, president of the 300-member Palwaukee Airport Pilots Association, the taxiway will improve safety by allowing pilots to get to the end of the runway without having to cross the path of other planes.

"It's always much easier if we can move with less crossing," Wipotnik said.

Noise will be reduced because aircraft will spend less time on the ground with engines running as they wait for incoming traffic to clear, airport manager Fred E. Stewart Jr. said.

Stewart said the groundbreaking culminated an effort that began in 1988. Before a taxiway could be built, a drainage ditch and the intersection of Wolf and Hintz Roads had to be relocated.

Stewart said the taxiway should be complete by fall.

Airport officials are trying to secure federal money for runway reconstruction. That project is expected to top $9 million. Stewart said Palwaukee has a $1.9 million commitment from the state and $340,000 of its own for that project.

Other proposed improvements include an extension of the east side taxiway and a shorter taxiway along the west side of the runway.

Stewart said airport officials would like to rebuild the runway this year but are waiting for money.

"We're going to have to scramble to come up with the money for this construction season," Durbin said. "I think we can come up with part of it, but we're trying to come up with all of it.

"We don't want to lose any construction time."

[Chicago ATC News]