Chicago Waukegan Airport’s Main Runway May Become Shorter

 - August 27, 2012, 3:25 PM
Operators at Chicago Waukegan Airport had hoped its main runway would be extended to 7,000 feet, but funding shortfalls might instead spell a reduction from the current 6,000-foot usable length of the runway.

Just as pilots using Chicago Waukegan Airport (UGN) 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–comes word that the usable runway length might actually be reduced if various government entities cannot work together. 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.”

Henderson has called a meeting of airport stakeholders (11 a.m. on September 12 at the airport’s Landmark Aviation hangar) to “develop a substantial coalition of users to help prove the airport is a useful part of the National Airspace System.”

Waukegan is one of only 84 business aviation airports that fall into the FAA’s new national GA airport category. The airport is home base to 55 jets, including those owned by Abbott Laboratories, Baxter Healthcare, Grainger, Brunswick and Klein Tools.