Many local officials were elated the state capital bill recently passed by the General Assembly set aside $6 million for a long-needed air traffic control tower for the Lewis University Airport in Romeoville.
Multiple government officials from the village of Romeoville and Will County, local state representatives and U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Western Springs, have advocated for the expansion of the airport because of its potential as an economic driver in the region. The tower will provide increased safety and facilitate expanded use of the airport to grow the regional economy and create jobs, according to Lipinski’s office.
About 385 aviation-related jobs are at the airport, and the control tower is expected to add 10 permanent federally funded positions.
But the main point of installing the tower was to better regulate traffic and continue the airport’s good safety record, which will encourage more private, corporate fliers to use the facility for local business.
“First and foremost, this is about safety and efficiency,” Romeoville Mayor John Noak said at a news conference Thursday.
Although no big airlines will be flying out of Romeoville, Noak said, the tower will help the private corporations that use the airport.
The facility is Will County’s only corporate airport. The Joliet Regional Port District purchased it from Lewis in 1989 when it was a 172-acre facility. Today, it is more than 1,000 acres with two runways.
The airport is home to more than 160 aircraft, including
10 corporate jets with more than 105,000 aircraft operations a year, according to a news release. More than
20 Fortune 500 companies, including Caterpillar, Citgo, Harrah’s, Exxon Mobil and NASCAR own and operate aircraft, and have offices and plants located within 20 minutes of the airport.
The facility also is a designated reliever airport for the congested O’Hare and Midway airports. It was named the 2018 Reliever Airport of the Year by the Illinois Department of Transportation, as well as five other times in the past 16 years.
Lewis University still is a key partner with the airport and offers several Federal Aviation Administration-approved programs for its 700 students studying and training at the airport for careers in aviation. The Joliet Regional Port District said the airport is the Chicago area’s most active training base.
Chris Lawson, director of aviation for the Joliet Regional Port District, said the design for the project is expected to be completed by October, after which the project will go out to bid. The actual construction of the tower should take less than a year.