Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack announced Newton Municipal Airport was among five airports in Iowa’s Second Congressional District that would be receiving funds from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s grant program.
The Newton airport will receive $378,000 for a runway extension project. Airport manager Ethan Nasalroad said the project is slated to begin in the fall, after the current racing season at Iowa Speedway is completed.
He said the project would add approximately 40,000 square feet to the existing airport apron.
“We’re certainly glad to see the grant money was released by the federal government,” Nasalroad said. “The federal government pays 90 percent of the cost of the project, while the city will have to cover the other 10 percent. The really interesting part of all this is that the federal funding actually comes from aviation users.”
Newton Public Works Director Keith Laube said the city applied for the grant earlier this year, and received bids on the project, contingent upon receiving the grant. He said bids for the work came in under the estimate, so the cost of the project will be less than originally expected.
“On race weekends, it gets pretty tight,” Nasalroad said. “We have a lot of large aircraft close together, and we even have to close some of the taxiways to park aircraft, so it’s a real safety issue, especially when there is a night race.”
He said IndyCar Series and Nationwide Series weekends, when Sprint Cup drivers may be splitting time between Newton and the Pocono Raceway at Long Pond, Pa., are the busiest for the airport. On those weekends, the airport often gets within one or two aircraft of its maximum capacity.
“Continual improvements to the Newton Municipal Airport have made it possible for our community to attract new businesses and expand the economic base, and we applaud this grant-funded project," Iowa Speedway President Stan Clement said. " This will come as welcome news to the race teams that come to Iowa Speedway as well, since the vast majority of them use our airport facilities.”
Nasalroad said the apron improvement would help with current capacity issues at the airport, but noted that if Iowa Speedway gets a Sprint Cup race in the future, more work will need to be done to accommodate the even higher volume of aircraft coming in. He said the airport has been working incrementally to be prepared, should that announcement come.
Also receiving funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation are the airports in Clinton, Mount Pleasant, Fort Madison and the Southwest Iowa Regional Airport in Burlington. In all, the airports in the Second District will receive more than $1.75 million in federal grants.
“Ensuring our area airports have the tools necessary for Iowans to travel safely is a top priority,” Loebsack said. “I am pleased this funding will help purchase needed equipment, update old buildings and keep the airports operational and safe. It will also help ensure continued economic growth in Iowa around commercial and private air travel.”