The proposed master plan for The Eastern Iowa Airport includes $61.5 million worth of projects to prepare the regional facility for the next 20 years. But federal funding, officials say, is uncertain.
The Cedar Rapids Airport Commission on Monday received an update from representatives of Mead & Hunt of Madison, Wis. The architectural and engineering consulting firm was hired to develop the plan, which will serve as a blueprint for capital spending and airport development.
Mead & Hunt’s financial forecast for the next five years calls for $24 million in Federal Aviation Administration airport improvement program (AIP) entitlement funds, $7.5 million in AIP discretionary funds, $11.8 million from the airport, $12.4 million from passenger facility charges, $2.7 million from rental car customer facility charges, $2.2 million from the Iowa Department of Transportation and $1 million from the Transportation Security Administration.
It’s that $7.5 million of AIP discretionary funds that Airport Director Tim Bradshaw said is questionable.
“I used to have a degree of certainty with Washington, but I don’t have that anymore,” Bradshaw said. “We feel fairly confident about the entitlement funds for the next two years, but not so confident about the discretionary funds.
“With sequestration looming again in the next fiscal year, there’s a real degree of uncertainty.”
Bradshaw noted that Congress allowed the FAA to tap AIP discretionary funds earlier this year to prevent air traffic controller furloughs due to a 10 percent budget cut. He said loss of those discretionary AIP funds will prompt the airport to consider raising the passenger facility charge paid by travelers using the airport.
The proposed master plan forecasts 60 percent growth of passengers flying out of the airport over the next 20 years, to 731,000 annually. The average number of passengers per flight also is expected to grow as airlines phase out smaller aircraft and increase passenger loads.
With the growth in passengers, the Transportation Security Administration would like to see the number of security checkpoint lanes expanded to three, from the existing two lanes. Bradshaw said construction will begin in 2016 when the B concourse is expanded and two new gates are added on the C concourse.
“We plan to start remodeling the terminal after the spring break next year,” Bradshaw said. “We’re going to open up the terminal to more daylight in the ticketing area and add canopies on the front of building.
“We’re also going to demolish some vacant offices across from the ticket counters to enlarge the queuing area. A couple of years down the road, we think you will bring your bag to a shared counter, tag it yourself and be on your way.”
Another big change, suggested by Mead & Hunt, would be to the airport’s traffic flow that would separate the short-term and long-term parking entrances and include a ring road on airport property. Drivers dropping off a passenger in front of the terminal would use the ring road to return to the short- or long-term parking entrances, rather than having to cross traffic twice using Wright Brothers Boulevard SW.
But again, coming up with funding for the suggested improvements will be an issue, according to Bradshaw.
“We struggle with land-side infrastructure needs because typically the FAA does not pay for things like roads and parking lots,” he said. “I have asked our engineers to give us a five-year outlook on our pavement and infrastructure needs.
“I will be presenting that to the commission in December as we look to our next budget year. We’re going to have to find a funding source for our land-side needs.”
The commission expects to see the master plan for approval next month.
Although owned by the city of Cedar Rapids, The Eastern Iowa Airport does not receive any property tax revenue. The airport derives its revenue from airline revenues, terminal concessions, ground and facility leases, landing fees, ramp fees and parking revenue.