While pilots using Chicago Waukegan Airport await news of when the airport’s 6,000-foot Runway 5/23 might be extended to 7,000 feet–a more comfortable length for jet operations–interagency conflicts could ultimately lead to a reduction of the runway’s usable length.
According to Waukegan Port District executive director Duncan Henderson, the FAA has said it does not have the money to meet the Lake County Forest Preserve District’s price demands for the land onto which the runway would be extended. “The necessary land is part of the Waukegan Savanna, and the Forest Preserve District wants about $100,000 per acre,” said Henderson. “That brings the total cost of the runway extension, including a widening of nearby Green Bay Road, to about $140 million.”
The road upgrade also brings the Illinois Highway Department into the negotiations. “If we can’t afford to purchase the land and the highway is widened anyway,” Henderson said, “that will require the FAA to apply standard runway safety area [RSA] criteria to the existing runway, which has no safety areas at present. That, in turn, would mean shortening the usable length of the current pavement to approximately 4,300 feet.” Waukegan, home base to 55 private jets, is one of only 84 business aviation airports that fall into the FAA’s new national GA airport category.