- President Donald Trump has signed the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Act of 2018, a five-year bill that provides a recommitment of federal funds for airport improvement projects from 2019 to 2023 and that will help pay for Hurricane Florence recovery efforts. Both the Senate and House passed the bill with significant majorities.
- The bill will again allocate $3.35 billion each year for airport improvement grants, which are used for small to major repairs and renovations at airports across the U.S. The reauthorization also includes more than $1 billion a year for discretionary airport infrastructure grants. Both programs must be split evenly between small/non-hub airports and large facilities. The bill also includes about $1.7 billion for disaster relief post-Hurricane Florence, primarily in the Carolinas.
- Airport industry groups are not happy with the final bill. In a joint statement, the American Association of Airport Executives and Airports Council International-North America said, "The airport industry cannot get behind this proposal given the flat federal funding level, continued federal interference with local airport financing flexibility and new federal mandates. In even the best case scenario, this measure keeps airports stuck in neutral for the next five years by failing to address the fact that more travelers are taking to the skies thus further crowding outdated terminals and tarmacs."
The portions of the bill that will most impact construction companies and designers are those dealing with improvement grant funding. This money pays for projects ranging from new lighting to major runway overhauls, creating opportunities for both small and large contractors.
In fact, in 2017, some grants were in the $25,000 range for projects, including energy assessments and minor runway or road improvements, work that many smaller contractors easily can handle. These types of projects also give contractors a chance at getting a foot in the door with airports, proving themselves and perhaps working their way up to larger ones.
The Federal Aviation Administration has released approximately $3.3 billion this year in improvement grant funding. The last round was in September and covered $586 million of work, which came to 217 grants at 181 airports in 39 states. The money went toward typical AIP projects, including runways, taxiways, aprons and terminals, among other things.