Portage Municipal Airport needs upgrades to qualify for federal funds and meet potential needs of businesses and recreational aviators, according to findings from a 2018 study.
The city, along with TKDA Engineering out of Downers Grove, Illinois, presented the findings of a use study and plans to upgrade the airport at 1011 Silver Lake Drive, to residents in a public meeting Tuesday night. About 22 people attended including Mayor Rick Dodd.
The use study was conducted in 2018 by TKDA and served to document the current uses and conditions of the airport.
According to Marcus Watson, project manager with TKDA, the study revealed that due to runway length and tall objects blocking airpaths, the airport is not currently up to Federal Aviation Administration guidelines.
“We looked at the demand and what can the facility handle right now. One of the key things we found is there is demand here for both business and recreational, that cannot use the airport because of the deficiencies in the facilities,” said Watson. “For example, the runway length isn’t sufficient there are airspace obstructions that do not allow for safe flight.”
Watson said the FAA classifies the airport as constrained, meaning it is not able to support the current aviation use, or potential growth without upgrades. The airport operates with approximately a 3,700 foot runway, with about 4,255 take-offs and landings yearly. There are 28 aircrafts based in hangars at the airport.
The current design of the airport is functional for small aircrafts that can seat up to six passengers.
The city has three development options to upgrade the airport. The first would cost approximately $4.4 million and would require the city to acquire nearby land. City costs for that option would be about $300,000 due to the availability of state and federal funds.
Option one would include shortening the usable length of the runways, from about 3,700 feet to 3,300 feet and redeveloping current hangers and terminals to bring the airport into safety compliance with the FAA.
“This is the safety and compliance option,” said Watson. “It does not impact any surrounding roads, it does not impact any surrounding residential property. Overall, of the options, this is the least impactful option.”
While this option is the most inexpensive and least disruptive to residents and nearby homes, it would decrease the usable space and traffic at the airport.
The second option would cost $18.8 million and would improve the whole usable length of the airport, but would require rerouting of Silver Lake Drive and burying powerlines underground.
The third option would include constructing an entirely new 3,300 foot runway, and would cost approximately $13 million, and would require much more construction time and equipment which could cause disruption to nearby residents.
Members of TKDA and the city’s advisory committee working on the project recommended option one.
The city can choose any three of the options to improve the existing airport, choose to move the airport to a new location and build from scratch or choose to close the current airport which would require approval from the department of transportation and aviation and FAA. Building a new airport would require an entirely new set of studies, plans and permits.
“I just want to thank everyone for showing up. It’s been a long drawn out process,” said Aaron Jahncke, the city’s public works director and engineer. “At this point, we’re trying make a decision. I appreciate everyone attending this, and if you have any comments to make please do.”
Residents can contact Jahncke with comments via phone, email or mail prior to Oct. 13, or visit portageairportplan.tkda.com to learn about the provided plans or make a comment prior the Oct. 13 deadline.
This story was updated Oct. 2 to include the potential costs to the city for the project.