The city of Springfield recently received nearly $500,000 in grant money to pave two taxiways this year that are showing signs of deterioration at the Springfield-Beckley Municipal Airport.
Maintaining the pavement at the airport is important as the airport tries to continue attracting business, and because it’s possible the taxiways could eventually cause damage to planes if they are not repaired, said Don Smith, the airport’s manager. He pointed to deep cracks Thursday along two taxiways that have been sealed, but will be in need of repair soon.
“If we were to drive out on this taxiway, you would feel it,” Smith said.
A 2014 study from the Ohio Department of Transportation showed the airport has a significant economic impact locally — it directly and indirectly supports as many as 774 jobs and about $36 million in payroll. Statewide, airports across Ohio support about 123,500 jobs and account for about $4.2 billion in payroll.
The funding was part of $5.8 million the Ohio Department of Transportation’s aviation division made available in 2015. Springfield was one of only two airports in the state to receive more than one grant for 2016, said Tom Franzen, economic development director and assistant city manager for Springfield.
More funding was made available than in past years, Smith said, in part because pilots and other aviation advocates lobbied for a greater share of state revenue to be made available for airports. In the past, general aviation has contributed close to $15 million a year in fuel taxes to the state, but received only a smaller portion back in grants for repairs while highways and other roads received the bigger share, he said.
“We were fortunate we were selected,” Smith said. “I think we prepared the second application in three weeks.”
The ODOT grants will pay for 95 percent of the repair costs, while local funding will cover the remaining 5 percent. The city’s share comes from capital funding that can only be used at the airport, Franzen said. He credited Smith and staff at the airport going after the additional funding to improve the airport.
“Part of this is a reflection of the quality our engineers and airport personnel have done in carrying out these projects,” Franzen said.
Local officials are also working on additional projects to draw more potential business to the airport. Airport officials are planning to build a total of six T-hangars and four larger box hangars to provide more space due to increasing demand. As many as 55 general aviation planes are already housed at the airport, and there is a demand for more space, Franzen said.
The next steps to design the project should be completed in March or April, Smith said. It’s possible construction could begin as early as July.
The state provided about $500,000 in capital funding for that project. The Springfield Port Authority has pledged to chip in an additional $300,000, while city airport funds could be used to cover the remainder. Most of the city’s share will be paid back from pilots renting the hangars, Franzen said.