Dubuque council approves regional airport master plan

Work has already begun on a recently completed master plan for the Dubuque Regional Airport, which outlines $152 million in future projects over the next 20 years.

The plan, which was given unanimous final approval by Dubuque City Council last week, provides a detailed list of anticipated projects and will be used by airport staff to qualify for future federal funding.

Dubuque Regional Airport Director Todd Dalsing said airport staff have already begun preliminary design for one of the projects listed in the plan: the reconstruction of taxiway A, expected to cost about $3.1 million.

“This is a document that we will be using as a tool for the next 10 to 20 years,” Dalsing said. “This plan will help us meet the airport’s projected future demand.”

A number of short and long-term expansions and improvement projects for the airport are listed in the plan, which is required to be completed by the Federal Aviation Administration every 15 years. The Regional Airport’s last master plan was completed in 2005.

Of the listed projects, the most significant are a $40 million expansion to construct a new airport apron on a 30-acre property located west of the airport, expansion of the main terminal building, development of additional commercial lots for light industrial use and the extension of airport runways and taxiways.

The plan comes during a period of recovery for the airport, which saw a sharp decline in passengers during the COVID-19 pandemic. In October, the airport reported serving 2,135 passengers, far more than the 154 reported in October 2020 but still fewer than the 3,504 reported in 2019.

However, Dalsing said long-term projections see the airport growing in demand for both commercial and leisure travel, and expansions to the airport will be required to meet that demand.

The plan itself projects that the airport will increase its annual number of passengers from 39,780 in 2019 to 52,600 by 2040.

“There is future demand for increases in traffic at the airport,” Dalsing said. “That will require future hangars and future taxiways.”

Dalsing said the projects outlined in the plan will be paid for through a variety of federal and local funding. While many of the projects will qualify for federal grants through the FAA, including the most recent taxiway project, Dalsing said some grants also likely will require local matches from the City of Dubuque.

Dubuque City Council Member Susan Farber said she sees any investment in the airport as a way to boost the local economy, arguing that improving the facility could attract outside businesses to Dubuque.

“It’s all about re-energizing the airport to energize our economy,” Farber said. “I think anything we can do to support the airport to bring more companies in is a good thing.”