SAVOY — Willard Airport has more than $20 million in projects lined up in the next two years.
“It will be a very busy place,” Executive Director Tim Bannon said at this week’s Champaign City Council meeting.
The work includes a rehab of the airport entrance road, reconstruction of a runway, the construction of a new taxiway and new signs.
“We’re reconstructing a taxiway that has some non-standard geometry,” he said. “We’re updating signage, lighting and underground wiring on numerous air carrier taxiways. That’ll happen in 2020, as well. We are fully reconstructing runway 4/22, which was a $9.9 million FAA grant.”
Work started last month and is expected to be completed by early 2020. Funded entirely by Flightstar, it will allow passengers to land directly at Willard without having to clear customs at another airport, officials said.
Perhaps the first project at the airport to get completed will be the new U.S. Customs and Border Protection General Aviation Facility, which is scheduled to open in early 2020.
Funded by Flightstar, the facility will allow private international flights to fly directly to Willard without having to clear customs at another airport.
“The Decatur station is getting shut down, and it’s getting relocated to” Willard, Bannon said. “Corporate travelers will now be able to fly directly into (Willard) and get processed instead of having to stop somewhere else. That’s a lot more efficient.
“And for our size airport,” he added, “that’s really fantastic.”
Meanwhile, those checking their phones while waiting for a plane will soon have one less thing to worry about, Bannon said.
“We’re adding device-charging stations in the passenger-boarding terminal,” he said.
The University of Illinois-owned airport also has several bigger-ticket items on its wish list, Bannon said:
— It has asked the FAA for funding to rehabilitate the terminal, which was built in 1988.
Bannon said a rehab would address “the aesthetics of the building, the TSA checkpoint, the architecture. That’s definitely not programmed officially yet, but it’s in our list of asks toward the FAA.”
— Willard is also in a long line to get FAA funding for a new air-traffic control tower.
“Towers are very expensive to build, and from what I heard through the grapevine, we’re probably number 20 on the tower list, and there’s two built a year,” Bannon said. “Technologies may change in the future, and whether we’ll need a new tower or not, we’ll see. There are emerging technologies that allow advanced camera systems to serve the place of a tower.”
The existing tower was built in the 1960s, Bannon said.
— He also said Willard is hoping to build a car-rental facility that’s better equipped to handle harsh winters.
“Currently, we have this open-air facility that’s pretty basic. We need to build a new facility to support our rental cars, so there’s a quick turn on those rental cars,” Bannon said. “Being open-air today, we can’t process rental cars in the winter. So we’d really like to improve that at the airport. It is a big part of our business.”
That would be funded by the $3-per-day fee on rental cars, Bannon said.