QUINCY -- Legislation approved by Congress could provide up to $1 million for maintenance and infrastructure improvements at Quincy Regional Airport and hundreds of other small airports nationwide.
A budget reauthorization bill for the Federal Aviation Administration was approved last month and is awaiting the president's signature. It appears to qualify Quincy for the higher funding level.
"I just heard about that (Monday). If it's true, it's awesome," said interim Airport Manager Marty Stegeman.
Quincy Regional Airport had been expected to receive $150,000 for maintenance and infrastructure work after it fell short of a 10,000-enplanement threshold last year. The FAA provides $1 million to airports that have 10,000 boardings as part of the Airport Improvement Program.
However, Congress included language in the FAA funding bill that would allow airports that hit 10,000 boardings during calendar year 2012 to qualify for up to $1 million even if they fell short of the boarding quota in 2015 and still have scheduled air service.
"It appears we are covered under that bill to get that money," Stegeman said.
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin said the funding bill is great news for the Quincy airport and the economy of Western Illinois.
"By ensuring the FAA continues to make strong investments in our state's regional airports, we help pay for much-needed improvements, create jobs and bring new business into our communities. That's why I will continue to support critical transportation funding and grant programs that drive economic growth and benefit Illinois," Durbin said.
Terrance Ward, who is scheduled to begin work Monday as manager of Quincy Regional Airport, was briefed on the FAA funding bill this week.
"We're ecstatic that it got passed," Ward said. "It will help to keep the airport safe and keep it secure, and people will be able to see that their tax dollars are being spent well."
In Montana, where Ward has been managing a pair of small airports, a pilot shortage has hurt boardings when flights were canceled. In the Midwest, many airports have had fewer passengers with the drop in gasoline prices the past two years.
Erin Hatzell, Midwest regional marketing manager for Cape Air, said the airline had 617 enplanements at Quincy in July. That is down from 785 boardings in July 2015.
Cape Air has reported 4,441 boardings at Quincy Regional Airport through the first seven months of the year and is unlikely to reach the 10,000-boardings goal this year.
Stegeman said he has heard from other airport managers that the number of passengers they've handled is down, with more people driving to St. Louis rather than taking flights.