The Gary/Chicago International Airport could have an answer within 30 days on whether or not it will receive any more Federal Aviation Administration money for its $166 million expansion project, according to a key airport consultant.
John Clark, CEO of JClark Aviation, told the airport authority board Monday the Federal Aviation Administration has taken a look at Gary's request for $24 million and ruled out about $8 million of it. But the agency has indicated it will consider funding for what it considers $16 million worth of eligible projects in the request, Clark said.
Clark met with FAA officials on Dec. 5 in Washington, D.C., to go over the Gary airport's request for an amendment to the letter of intent the federal agency issued in 2006, which pledged $57.8 million to the Gary airport expansion project. The latest request the Gary airport filed with the FAA at the end of August asked that the letter be amended to provide the additional money.
"It did seem very favorable that we will get consideration on our amendment," he told the five members of the airport authority board in attendance on Monday at the Airport Administration Building.
Any additional FAA money would be used to pay for projects not enumerated in the airport's original request for funding. They are mainly rail and other projects which were not anticipated when the airport's original request was filed, Clark said.
The expansion project will lengthen the airport's main runway to 8,900 feet from its current 7,000 feet. Lengthening the runway involves moving a heavily trafficked rail line owned by Canadian National Railway as well as extensive work on two other rail lines.
The airport authority board also acted on Monday to keep at least until June the $12 million it borrowed from the Airport Development Zone six months ago to keep contractors on the job and working. The airport authority had intended to pay the money back by this time.
Airport Authority President Nathaniel Williams said the airport will have to keep the money until the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority releases at least the first of the $30 million it has pledged to the airport expansion project.
The airport authority also heard a report on a meeting held last week between contractors, unions, the airport, Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson and the U.S. Department of Labor.
Authority vice president Rev. Marion Johnson has been pushing for such a meeting since last year, in order to increase the number of Gary residents employed on the expansion project. According to statistics collected by the airport, just 8 percent of construction workers on the expansion project are city of Gary residents.
Johnson expressed frustration with the low number of Gary residents employed, especially as a number of contractors are Gary based.
"It only makes sense to me if someone is a Gary contractor, he should have some Gary residents working for him," Johnson said.