The N.C. Division of Aviation awarded a $5.46 million federal block grant to Concord Regional Airport for capital improvement projects.The grant is part of the N.C. Department of Transportation's ongoing commitment to improving aviation throughout North Carolina. The funds will be used to strengthen the existing taxiway and aircraft parking apron to support larger and heavier aircraft, such as the 737-800 aircraft.Aside from some crack repair, the asphalt has not been upgraded since the airport was dedicated Nov. 11, 1994, said Director of Aviation Dick Lewis."We have not done any overlays to those two areas since we opened," said Lewis. "This will not only strengthen it but make it last longer. This will give us better flexibility and expand the life of airport."Concord Regional Airport in 2011 handled about 61,000 operations. In 2010, the runway was resurfaced to accommodate aircraft up to 130,000 pounds while the taxiway and apron could only accommodate aircraft up to 72,000 pounds.While the number of operations hasn't fluctuated much, Lewis said the increased pavement strength will support the growing number of larger aircraft that use the facility. Lewis estimates the future upgrades will last about 15 years.Design work for a new $3 million control tower also is underway and construction is expected to begin this fall, said Lewis. The current 36-foot tower will take on a different use after the planned 120-foot tower gets built. The new tower will provide an improved sightline for air traffic controllers, especially when dealing with larger aircraft.Other projects, such as a restaurant, an expanded terminal building and a parking garage, also are likely in the next decade, depending on the economy, said Lewis."The new tower and asphalt are key issues right now," said Lewis. "Once we get those things done then we can figure out how to do the other things."Concord Regional Airport has an approximate $110 million a year total impact on North Carolina and supports more than 860 jobs, according to a 2006 statewide economic impact study."Concord Regional Airport is one of our state's busiest general aviation facilities," said Division of Aviation Director Richard Walls. "The project will allow the airport to further expand its operations and better serve this region."Capital improvement funds came from a $22.8 million Federal Aviation Administration block grant that the Division of Aviation received in September. The division will award multiple sub grants through the program to general aviation airports across the state for a variety of capital improvement projects.Since Gov. Bev Perdue took office in 2009, the Division of Aviation has awarded more than $125 million to state airports. These funds enable airports across the state to provide improvements that support economic development and job opportunities.For information on North Carolina aviation, visit www.ncdot.gov/aviation.