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September 19, 2018 3:15 PM, EDT

Eastern Iowa Airport Gets $8.8 Million Grant for Cargo Facility Overhaul

Map showing Eastern Iowa Airport Shutterstock

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — The Eastern Iowa Airport has been awarded nearly $9 million in federal funds, which officials say will be used to relocate and expand the airport’s rapidly growing cargo operations.

Airport officials on Sept. 18 announced the $8.8 million Federal Aviation Administration discretionary grant, which will be used to relocate the airport’s cargo facilities from the east apron to the west side of the airport property, adjacent to the FedEx facility.

Airport Director Marty Lenss in a news release described the project as “transformational” for the airport.

“Year-to-date air cargo volume at CID is up 22%,” Lenss said in the release. “We currently handle 45% of the state’s cargo volume and based on projections, that percentage will increase to 48% by the end of 2018.”

The federal funds represent the largest discretionary grant the airport has received in a year. The total cost of the project is estimated to be $10.3 million, with Cedar Rapids Airport Commission funding $1.5 million.

Besides relocating cargo facilities and expanding the west cargo apron area, the project aims to build a connecting taxiway to allow for a joint-use cargo center, which would further improve the airport’s ability to expand cargo and passenger capacity.

The cargo apron expansion project will break ground Oct. 3.

Over the past 10 years, Eastern Iowa Airport has been carving out a larger share of the state’s cargo carrier landed weight — the measurement of cargo coming to the airport.

From 2008-17, the airport’s share of cargo increased from 29% to 44%, according to airport data.

In the same span, Des Moines International Airport saw its share of state cargo traffic drop from 71% to 56%.

“The region’s superior geographic location provides us the ability to serve 11 million more people — with a one-day Department of Transportation drive time — than any place along the I-35/I-80 corridor,” Lenss said in the release.

Meanwhile, passenger numbers have been increasing more evenly between the state’s major airports.

In 2017, the airport handled 29.3% of the state’s passengers, compared with 32% in 2008.

In the same span, the Des Moines airport’s share of in-state passengers increased from 59% in 2008 to 64% last year.

All told, Eastern Iowa Airport saw record boarding numbers last year, with 1.14 million total passengers — up from 1.13 million in 2014.

That growth in ridership, paired with airlines upgauging to larger planes, also has forced the airport to upgrade the facility’s terminal.

The modernization project — Phase 3 is estimated at $31 million — will add 54,000 square feet to the terminal, build two jet bridges, expand concessions and hold rooms, and add an outdoor patio.

The project includes the installation of about 740 solar panels on the terminal roof.

Growth has been so prominent that airport officials have said the fourth and final phase of the project will have to go under further review, as traffic projections from 2014 already are out of date.

Lenss said the cargo project also opens up more space around the terminal building, something that could become increasingly valuable if growth continues and planes keep getting larger.

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