The latest transportation appropriations bill passed by Congress and recently signed by the president contains a record amount of airport funding for Iowa. D-O-T Aeronautics Division spokesman Tim McClung says one part of it is renewal of Essential Air Service funding aimed at helping smaller commercial airports survive the effects of deregulation in the industry.

He says the Essential Air Service program’s important to Iowa as it supports commercial air travel service at airports in Fort Dodge, Mason City and Burlington. That E-A-S funding became critical to keeping airports like those open in the months after 9/11 when airplane travel fell off drastically. The Federal Aviation Authority is also sending 53-Million dollars to airports around the state for expansion, upkeep and repairs. It’s not “free money” but McClung explains it’s a great deal for local towns. The local towns have to put up five to 10-percent of the total amount to get those federal grants, which come from money raised by aviation-generated user fees — things like passenger facility fees, cargo taxes and fuel taxes.

McClung says 77 airports qualify to get some of that FAA funding for their projects.
The money primarily goes to rehabilitation projects like overlay and repair of the pavement on runways and taxiways, as well as lighting systems and instrument landing approaches. McClung says the Airport Improvement Program’s a benefit to business in towns large and small. The air transportation system is important to Iowa, with more than 3-Million passengers a year passing through the commercial-service airports. McClung says “Airports are critical transportation and economic resources to the state, and communities throughout Iowa.”