Greater Kankakee Airport

Improvement are planned at the Greater Kankakee Airport. Upgrading the runway is in the sights of the Kankakee Valley Airport Authority Board.

KANKAKEE — The Greater Kankakee Airport landed $1.61 million from the State of Illinois to complete upgrades at the two-runway, south Kankakee facility.

The airport authority will receive $1,611,000, which will nearly fund the $1,790,000 project entirely.

Kankakee airport officials hope this is only the beginning of improvements and upgrades to the site as they have set their sights on a multimillion-dollar investment.

In all, the state, through the Rebuild Illinois program, distributed $94 million to 96 airports this week. Another $11.5 million for the projects will be contributed by local sources.

Jeff Benoit, manager of the Greater Kankakee Airport, said they have not yet received the funding. He noted the remaining portion of the funding would come locally.

The money comes from the $45 billion Rebuild Illinois capital infrastructure plan which passed the General Assembly and the governor signed into law in 2019.

Rende Langlois, chairman of the Kankakee Valley Airport Authority, the governing body for the Greater Kankakee Airport, said the funding is hopefully just the beginning of needed funding.

The awarded money will be used to rehab portions of the taxiway for the 5,981-foot-long, north-south runway and relocating one of the main taxiways ramps on this runway.

The rebuilt taxiways will allow for greater turning range which will therefore allow for larger aircraft.

Construction is expected to take place in the spring of 2023 and take six months to complete. The project will likely go out to bid in January 2023.

“This is a huge thing,” Langlois said. “We knew this was coming. Is this exciting? Yes. This could be the tip of multi-millions in improvements here.”

Langlois said the airport has such great potential as a key economic engine for the entire region.

“I want to see buildings out here, manufacturing out here. This area could be a real jumping-off point for development,” Langlois said.

The airport’s second runway is 4,398 feet long. This runway will be resurfaced in 2022 at a cost of $1.3 million. This project is not part of the Rebuild Illinois program.

Of the 1,500 acres the airport authority controls, only about 600 actually are used by the airport. The remaining 900 acres around the complex are owned by the authority but largely are being farmed.

If and when development occurs, these 900 acres no longer would be leased to farmers but rather used for development, Benoit said.

Gov. JB Pritzker made the funding announcements while in Moline on Wednesday. The Quad Cities International Airport, which is located in Moline, received $5.6 million for entrance road realignment and parking expansion.

“Crucially, these dollars are going first and foremost to projects that might not otherwise be eligible for the full federal funding that they need to finish,” Pritzker said.

Rebuild Illinois is an infrastructure package covering roads, bridges, waterways, air travel and rail, as well as bike and pedestrian pathways.

The program is largely funded through a doubling of the state’s motor fuel tax to 38 cents, a rate that now goes up annually at the inflationary rate. The measure also increased several fees motorists pay to the Illinois Secretary of State, including registration fees.

Lee Provost, an award-winning reporter, has been writing local news stories for The Daily Journal since 1988. He is a lifelong resident of the region. Provost can be reached at lprovost@daily-journal.com.