U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin’s office has announced federal funding for the University of Illinois’ Willard Airport south of Champaign, to be used to attract air service to Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C.
In a news release issued Tuesday, Durbin (D-Ill.) announced that Willard Airport would receive $500,000 from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Small Community Air Service Development Program. The money would fund revenue guarantee and marketing support for the new air service.
Willard Airport currently offers passenger service to Chicago and Dallas. According to the travel website Expedia, a trip from Willard Airport to Washington DC requires one or more stops to change flights.
U of I Director of Real Estate Services Bruce Walden says the funds come as a result of a research project with Sixel Consulting, analyzing where people are traveling.
"We felt that we had the best possibility of sustaining a flight if we could travel to the D.C. area," he said. "Hopefully we've done enough homework that we can also convince not only the federal government, but also the airline industry, of the validity of the route, and the likelihood that it could be sustained."
Walden said the U of I has been working with business groups in an effort to secure the required matching funds.
Sen. Durbin’s announcement of funding for Willard Airport also included DOT funding for airports in Bloomington-Normal and Springfield.
Central Illinois Regional Airport in Bloomington-Normal will receive $500,000 to launch new air service to Washington, D.C. or New York.
Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport in Springfield will receive $250,000 in DOT funding for ground handling and marketing services to support new low-cost air service to Florida, Myrtle Beach, Las Vegas and/or Phoenix.
In the release, Sen. Durbin said that the grants “will support new air service to three important airports in Central Illinois and hopefully lead to more students, families and businesses taking advantage of these new routes”.