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CIRA AirTran flight lands
An AirTran flight from Atlanta, Ga., arrives at Central Illinois Regional Airport on Sept. 27, 2010. (The Pantagraph/LORI ANN COOK-NEISLER)

BLOOMINGTON — Officials at Central Illinois Regional Airport said Monday that they welcome a new economic impact study of the state’s aviation system announced Monday.

The Illinois Department of Transportation study will measure the local economic benefits of more than 100 airports statewide. The review is expected to take 18 months and will help guide the agency’s Division of Aeronautics and local aviation and economic development leaders, according to IDOT.

“The information gained from the study will provide a benchmark for planning and future enhancement of the state’s overall aeronautics system,” Susan Shea, IDOT’s director of aeronautics, said in a statement.

CIRA, the state’s fourth-busiest airport by annual traffic, has never commissioned a full economic impact study for itself. But the airport expects a strong showing in the statewide study, and the results may come in handy for future planning, said CIRA spokeswoman Fran Strebing.

“Any work that can be done to bring to light what the airport’s impact is on the region is a good thing,” she said.

The study, conducted by three private firms, will include smaller facilities such as community airports in Lincoln and Pontiac, as well as privately owned ones in Dwight and Paxton. IDOT spokesman Josh Kauffman said the study will cost about $595,400, with 95 percent of that amount federally funded.

CIRA set a new traffic record in 2010, rising 12.9 percent to 559,481 passengers, its low fares and free parking helping it outpace rival airports such as Peoria and Springfield. Recent surveys of CIRA passengers showed 55 percent of those who lived in Illinois resided more than 25 miles away from Bloomington-Normal.

“They are possibly buying gas, food or even spending the night in the community prior to their flights or upon arrival,” Strebing said, also noting the economic impact of the 350 people employed at CIRA.

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