A federal grant of $550,543 will help Quincy Regional Airport pay for runway repairs and other work at Baldwin Field.
The U.S. Department of Transportation awarded $527.8 million in infrastructure grants to 584 airports across the nation on Wednesday.
“The Airport Improvement Program helps to maintain our aviation infrastructure and supports safety, capacity, security and environmental improvements,” Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao said in a release.
Airport Manager Terrance Ward was pleased to hear about the announcement, but had not gotten official confirmation of the grant by Thursday.
“Any (financial) help would be good. We’ve got some pavement issues we’d like to fix,” Ward said.
Alderman Terri Heinecke, R-7, the immediate past chairman of the city’s Aeronautics Committee, said rehabilitation of runway 13/31 is the sizable project the committee has identified as the top priority.
“We’ve got other things, cosmetically, that need to be done, but they’re not releasing any state funding so things are kind of at a standstill,” Heinecke said.
Ward said the runway 13/31 project will take two years to complete. It is expected to cost $6.5 million overall, with the city picking up 5 percent of the cost.
“There are cracks in the pavement and water seeps in and freezes and then we get bumps,” Ward said.
The runway project already has been approved by state and federal officials, and work should start in August or September.
Quincy Regional Airport had received $1 million in annual grants in recent years. The airport qualified for those funds with 10,000 boardings on commercial flights in 2012, 2013 and 2014. But boardings dipped in 2015 and last year during a slump in air travel. Small airports nationwide have been hurt by a pilot shortage. The low cost of gasoline has led many former air travelers to opt to drive instead. Because of fewer air travelers, the USDOT relaxed its boardings threshold, allowing Quincy Regional Airport to receive $1 million last year.
Cape Air provided 1,811 flights during 2016, transporting 7,637 passengers between Quincy and St. Louis. That level of ridership could have resulted in a federal grant as low as $100,000.
Cape Air has a contract to provide 36 weekly round-trip flights between Quincy and St. Louis. That agreement will expire later this year; the airline and competitors will have a chance to bid on a new federal Essential Air Service contract.
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said he would work to keep the airport subsidy program funded after President Donald Trump’s budget proposal called for cutting it.
“Having access to reliable air service is essential to growing businesses that create jobs in Illinois and I will fight to make sure that the Essential Air Service program is funded for generations to come,” Durbin said.
Cape Air officials announced last year that they would propose some Chicago flights as part of the EAS contract, as well as St. Louis flights. The Chicago flights were requested by Quincy travelers who appreciate O’Hare International Airport’s large number of U.S. and international destinations.
Cape Air has headquarters in Hyannis, Mass. The airline provides commercial flights from several Midwestern cities to St. Louis. The company will receive $2.6 million this year for providing flights to and from Quincy.