MORRIS – Beginning this spring, there is going to be some construction in and around the Morris Airport.
Thanks to state and federal grants, the airport will be looking to expand and improve its parking lot and add a new indicator to help land some of the jet planes that frequent the airport.
The Precision Approach Path Indicator installation is a series of lights that help pilots gauge their angle of approach to the runway.
“It really increases our safety because it gives you a true reference,” airport manager Jeffrey Vogen said. “When you’re on an instrument approach or in bad visibility, it really improves visibility.”
It is usable day and night.
The lighting systems sit to the side of the runway, and a series of red and white lights tell the pilot if they are coming in high or low. Two red and two white dots indicate an appropriate slope, more white means too high, more red means too low, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
It’s a system that benefits the airport in part because of its unique position. Morris is close enough to Chicago that landing at Morris and driving into the Chicago area can save time because of the congestion at Chicago’s airports. As a result, the Morris airport becomes the center of business traffic not seen at many other rural airports.
“A lot of corporate aircraft love to use the PAPI system,” Vogen said.
The grant for the indicator system is a matching grant from the Proposed Airport Improvement Program and covers about $148,000 of the project. State contributions total about $84,000, and the local match is $12,500.
Also coming this spring are improvements to the parking lot at the airport.
The intergovernmental agreement for the parking lot improvements, between the city of Morris and the Illinois Department of Transportation, Aeronautics Division, reads that the expansion will eliminate conditions that can cause crashes or security breaches, reduce the number of people exposed to high levels of noise, maintain airfield pavement in fair or better condition and update measures as issued by the FAA.
Because the parking lot is at an airport, some special considerations need to be taken into account.
“With airport parking lots, security is No. 1,” Vogen said. The project also includes new fencing.
The improvements will also realign the driveway of the parking lot with Airport Road on the west side of Route 47, so if there ever needs to be a traffic light installed, the roads already will be aligned.
IDOT’s State and Local Improvement Program will provide the majority of the funding for the parking lot project, chipping in about $494,000 to a local match of about $55,000.
Mark Molle, president of the Morris chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association, said the projects will be welcome at the airport.
“I think the improvements are awesome,” he said. “The airport has come a long way from the old gas shack.”
At last count this past August, the airport average about 116 aircraft a day, according to AirNav.com.
The airport is an economic driver to the community. In 2012, IDOT conducted an economic survey of airports in Illinois.
It concluded Morris Municipal Airport was responsible for 105 jobs and about $3 million in payroll to the region. It brought in about $13 million in total economic output.
Vogen said there is no set completion date on the projects because they are weather-dependent, but work on both should begin about May 1 when the weather breaks. And though there has been an increase in activity, Vogen said the airport isn’t over crowded.
“We still have plenty of room for everybody,” he said.