Springfield, Urbana airports to receive millions in federal funding

Airports in Clark and Champaign counties are expected to receive more than $6.5 million in federal grants earmarked for construction projects and various upgrades.

The funds are part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs and National Defense Authorization acts.

Springfield-Beckley Municipal Airport will receive more than $6 million that’s geared toward infrastructure and the creation of a base-wide microgrid. Urbana’s Grimes Field Airport will get $795,000 in a federal grant for airport upgrades.

Roughly $295,000 will be awarded to Springfield’s Beckley Municipal Airport and $159,000 to Urbana’s Grimes Field Municipal Airport annually over the next five years through an airport infrastructure grant.

These airport infrastructure grant funds can be used toward projects to improve and replace runways, taxiways, and airport-owned towers. The bill also expands this program to include terminal improvement and multimodal connections to the airport, according to a press release from Sen. Rob Portman’s (R-OH) office.

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“Upgrading and modernizing our airports will create tens of thousands of jobs and play a key role in attracting business and growing Ohio’s economy, both in the near term and for many years to come,” said Portman in a statement. “Now that air travel is beginning to ramp up as we work to get through this pandemic, it is the right time to make significant investments in our airports to ensure they will be able to meet the increasing demands of services.”

For large and medium primary hub airports, the grant covers 75% of eligible costs, according to the release. For small primary, reliever, and general aviation airports, the grant covers 90-95% of the costs.

Seth Timmerman, manager of the Springfield-Beckley Airport, said that the infrastructure funding will likely benefit the airport through paving and electrical rehabilitation.

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

Grimes Field Airport manager Elton Cultice said that the Federal Aviation Administration will release details about how the funds can specifically be spent at the airport in the coming weeks, but he hopes to see runway work and building improvements be made through the funding.

The local grant awards are among the $254 million in airport infrastructure funding awarded to 100 airports across the state.

Springfield-Beckley is also expected to be allotted $4.7 million though national defense funding to create the microgrid, according to a press release from the office of Sen. Sherrod Brown.

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Microgrids are local power generators – creating energy likely through solar or wind – that can connect to a main power grid, but also can operate self-sufficiently, said Gerald Brown, who teaches electrical engineering at Cedarville University.

Although microgrids are not common throughout the state, they could be appealing in the instance of a security emergency or a natural disaster, the professor said.

“If the main power grid goes down, everything goes down,” he said. “The appeal of a microgrid is that if you want or need to have power to run a facility or building… with the proper planning, you can run independently of the power grid. They’d be self-sustaining.”

The microgrid project is a part of $58 million of funding dedicated to military construction projects through the National Defense Authorization Act, which now is off to the president’s desk to be signed into law.

Timmerman said that more information about the microgrid project will be released in the coming months after airport leaders complete other development projects currently underway at the airpark.

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