MARION — Veterans Airport of Southern Illinois has received a total of $1,287,462 in U.S. Department of Transportation grant funding to help improve the airport, according to a news release from U.S. Sens. Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin.
The funding comes from the Department of Transportation’s Airport Improvement Program, which provides grants to public agencies, private owners and entities for the planning and development of public-use airports that are included in the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems (NPIAS).
Airport Director Doug Kimmel said the project is replacing taxiway lighting and a majority of the airfield sign systems.
“We have a nice new terminal, and now we need nice new lights on the airfield. It isn’t as flashy, but is required for safety of pilots,” Kimmel said.
The taxiway lighting and airfield sign systems that are being replaced are well over 30 years old. Generally, the systems have a life of 20 years.
“We’ve extended the usefulness as long as we can,” Kimmel said.
New lights will be LED, so they will be more efficient, as well. Kimmel expects considerable savings from the new lights over the next 20 years.
The grant will fund 95 percent of the project. The remaining 5 percent will by split between the airport and the Illinois Department of Transportation Division of Aeronautics.
Kimmel said he will be relieved to have the lights and signs replaced.
“The airport maintenance person was out Sunday evening trying to determine why a couple taxiways were not lit,” Kimmel said.
The airport authority hopes to start construction in the spring and finish in the summer. If work starts in March, it will be finished by June or July. It all depends on the weather.
This will be the second airfield improvement project at the airport.
“Currently, we are in the middle of resurfacing the east-west runway and replacing lights. We hope to have that done in November,” Kimmel said.
That runway is the smaller of two runways on the airfield. It is 5,000 feet long and 100 feet wide. The other runway runs north-south.
“By the time we get that done and taxiway finished next year, we will have a very sharp, safe and efficient airfield,” Kimmel said. “It’s a heck of a return in investments for us and the state.”
He added that both projects are necessary in operating the facility and keeping the public safe.
“Airport infrastructure investments are vital to the strength of our state’s transportation systems and our local economies, which is something I understand as both a pilot and a working mom,” Duckworth said in the news release.
“By investing in the future of our airports, we invest in Illinois’ future, and this funding helps us do just that,” Durbin said in the release.