Illinois To Update Its Aviation Systems Plan & Economic Impact Report

by Clayton Stambaugh, James Bildilli & Zach DeVeau
Published in Midwest Flyer – April/May 2020 issue

After nearly 25 years, the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) has embarked on a project to analyze the current Illinois Aviation System Plan (IASP) to determine where changes need to be made to remain competitive with today’s aviation environment. As we all try to keep abreast of the numerous changes to flying by attending recurrent training sessions, the aviation system itself needs to be periodically assessed to ensure that it truly reflects changes that have occurred. Since its last publication, there have been many: the adoption of GPS for navigation, the introduction of Light Sport Aircraft, electrically-powered flight and a myriad of technological changes to aircraft, airports and how those systems are utilized. In short, today’s aviation environment is no longer your “father’s” system.

Hand-in-hand with the updating of the “concrete and steel” aspects we all see, is the analyzing of the economic impact of that system and its users on the Illinois economy. It has been the goal of IDOT to provide innovative, sustainable and multimodal transportation solutions that support local goals and to grow the economy. By studying the needs and economic impacts together, it will provide a future vision for airport development across the state and provide essential data for program delivery, asset management and the overall impact that aviation has on Illinois communities.

As stakeholders in the aviation community, you may be wondering how these studies will affect you or how you use airports across the state. Starting in the late 1940s with the FAA’s Federal Aid to Airport Program (FAAP) and continuing today with the Airport Improvement Program (AIP), Illinois has been responsible for administering not only federal, but also state airport development funds. This is carried out through state legislative authority that gives IDOT discretion in planning, programming, and oversight for funding. As such, unlike many other states, Illinois serves as an industry partner to ensure that project selection and delivery is done in the safest, most effective, efficient, and accountable way possible.

Recently, the Illinois legislature approved Governor J.B. Pritzker’s “Rebuild Illinois,” which increases capital funding for eligible system airports, an additional $144 million. Coupled with the ongoing support of the federal funds available through AIP, Illinois has the ability to make increased investments in aviation facilities throughout the state – providing aviators and stakeholders around the country with safe and improved airport facilities.

As you may surmise, the updating of the system and economic analysis is a complex project. As such, IDOT has selected the firm of Kimley-Horn to lead the project. As part of the effort, the project team will be conducting statewide data collection, including in-person site visits at every publicly-owned, public-use airport in Illinois. These data will be used to provide insight into the system’s strength and how airports might be further developed to satisfy the demands of safety, compliance, standardization, and alignment within the overarching strategic goals of the department. This includes identifying facility needs and how they might be supported through applicable programs. Overall, this project will guide planning and implementation decisions, evaluate and recommend policy changes, support investment platforms, and educate those who oversee the system – including local, state, and federal policy-makers.

To ensure that the study effort results are consistent with the goals, the studies require a substantial amount of input from Illinois aviation stakeholders, and not just airport managers/owners and department staffers. Understanding your issues and needs is critically important in developing a holistic and comprehensive plan for the Illinois Aviation System. To assist IDOT in this effort, we ask that you please visit www.ILaviation.com to read about the project, review current (and all future) developed task white papers, and most importantly, provide input to the project team. Some of the issues for which we are soliciting your input include:

• Issues currently affecting airports in Illinois (and the Midwest).
• Recommended system enhancements.
• Unique businesses or services located/provided at airports in Illinois.
• Suggestions for feature airport case studies.
• Or, any other input believed to be helpful to the project or system.

Sample outcomes from system plans developed for other states include items such as funding for terminal development, construction or installation of key safety projects like clearing obstructions, changes in airfield geometry, construction of fuel facilities or something as simple as security lighting.

IDOT is excited to have the opportunity to complete this project on behalf of Illinois aviation system users and invites input from all stakeholders to ensure that the IASP is developed to meet or exceed its goals. Please be engaged and provide your frontline input through the project website or by talking with your local airport management or policymakers. As the project proceeds, we will keep you informed through future articles. 

EDITOR’S NOTE: Zach DeVeau, ACIP, is an aviation planner with Kimley-Horn and has experience in airport and aviation systems planning projects. DeVeau possesses advanced degrees in Economics and Urban and Regional Planning from Florida State University. Clayton Stambaugh is a facilities specialist and program manager with the Illinois Department of Transportation and is experienced in airport management. Stambaugh possesses advanced degrees in Aviation, a Master’s Degree in Public Administration, and holds a Commercial Pilot Certificate and Instrument and Multiengine Ratings. Jim Bildilli is a former official with the Illinois Division of Aeronautics, an airport consultant and inspector, a leader in the Boy Scouts of America Aviation Explorer Program, and a contributing editor to Midwest Flyer Magazine.

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