LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A project at the Little Rock airport to improve safety was the central focus of a visit by U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg on Wednesday.

Buttigieg visited the Clinton National Airport to review changes underway at one of its taxiways, used to access connected runways at the airport. 

The taxiway changes include removing a non-standard five-way intersection. The intersection being updated is where two taxiways and two runways meet, where the beginning of the airport’s north-facing and northeast-facing runways merge.

The changes come as there is a growing concern about runway incursions at airports. Buttigieg explained that with the post-pandemic increase in air travel, the Federal Aviation Administration had recorded an increase in close calls as airplanes entered runways unexpectantly.

“More mistakes than normal have been happening,” Buttigieg said, adding that the taxiway change “was to reduce confusion and risk.”

These changes are being funded by a $41 million grant from the federal government. 

The secretary said the funding was provided as part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed by Congress in 2021. 

FAA Little Rock Air Traffic Control Manager Dustin McCabe said the airport had 90,000 operations in 2022, such as takeoffs and landings. These operations include private, commercial and military flights, he said.

Clinton National Airport Director Bryan Malinowski said the airport had also recently received an $8 million grant for a new utility plant. He said the new plant would be the basis for a new baggage claim and concourse.

The Little Rock airport is the largest in the state and one of the 100 busiest airports in the country, Malinowski said.