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050219-blm-loc-1cira

Water cannons spray Frontier Airlines' first flight to Bloomington since 2015 as it arrives Sept. 24, 2018, at Central Illinois Regional Airport. Airport officials don't expect any major disruptions during pavement construction this summer and fall.

BLOOMINGTON — Central Illinois Regional Airport is near the end of a half-decade of work on its pavement — but it's saved the worst for last.

"This phase ... I think is the hardest one of all," Javier Centeno, deputy director of operations and facilities, told the airport authority board last month. "We have work everywhere on the airfield, so coordination is the hardest part."

Despite that, officials don't expect any major disruptions in service after construction begins Monday and runs into October. They've informed all the entities that use the airport about the project and, in some cases, tweaked the work schedule to better fit their needs.

"When we designed this project, we had somebody who wasn't in the situation, and that was Frontier Airlines," said Centeno. The budget airline resumed seasonal service at CIRA last fall after a few years away.

"(At their request) we sat with the engineers and reduced 25 days on the main runway to get this (part of the) project down to 14 days."

The five-year project includes asphalt crack sealing, concrete crack sealing and shoulder sealing covering 29 miles, 110 miles and 29 acres, respectively. It cost $5.2 million, with 90 percent federally funded from grants supported by sales tax on airline tickets, said Executive Director Carl Olson.

The project puts CIRA in a position to do only standard maintenance on its pavement for the next 10 to 15 years, freeing up resources for other projects to improve the airport's infrastructure, said Olson. Recent major structure projects included a new terminal and a new fire station.

"The airfield will stay open and safe the whole time," said Olson of the project. "At the conclusion of phase three, the airport will be able to offer better aircraft surfaces with significantly lower operating costs."

Centeno noted the contractor and subcontractors from previous phases are working on this year's construction. Freehill Asphalt of Watseka, Rowe Construction of Bloomington, and Springfield engineering firm Crawford, Murphy and Tilly have all worked on the airfield.

"We have conducted training for safety and security for the contractor and subcontractors, so we are ready to proceed once all the documentation is ready from the (Federal Aviation Administration) side," said Centeno.

CIRA, run by the Bloomington-Normal Airport Authority, uses property tax revenue for much of its local spending. The authority has unsuccessfully sought to expand its tax base from the Twin Cities to all of McLean County.

Contact Derek Beigh at (309) 820-3234. Follow him on Twitter: @pg_beigh

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