The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will award $162.4 million in Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grants to 72 airports in 31 states, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced Monday, according to an FAA press release.
Miami International Airport, in Florida ($23.5 million); Pittsburgh International Airport, in Pennsylvania ($12.3 million); and Cuyahoga County Airport, in Ohio ($11.3 million) scored some of the largest discretionary grants.
So far this year, the FAA has approved 1,351 grants worth a combined $2.1 billion for work at more than 1,200 U.S. airports.
This latest round of AIP grants marks the third such announcement since June, when the U.S. Department of Transportation said it would release $527.8 million for infrastructure improvements at 584 airports. In July, the agency said it would spend another $230 million for work at 104 U.S. airports.
The AIP has a yearly budget of roughly $3 billion, but grants handed down by the program can only be used for infrastructure improvements — not the giant terminal projects that are already underway or in the works at several U.S. airports.
Those grants come as a small relief to airports struggling to complete necessary infrastructure repairs and upgrades. According to the Airports Council International–North America, it would cost $100 billion over the next five years to make all of the repairs and upgrades currently needed at the country's airports. That figure represents a 32% increase since the council's 2015 report and is more than double what airports see in revenue from all sources, including user fees and grants.
To help ease that financial burden, both the House and the Senate have introduced multi-year measures that would increase airport funding by a small margin. Industry groups and other advocates say the legislation marks a good start and that a significant dent in airport infrastructure backlogs could be made if Congress removed the cap on user fees, which has been unchanged since 2000.
In an effort to speed up necessary airport construction, some officials have opted for public-private partnerships to finance such projects. New York's LaGuardia Airport chose a P3 delivery between the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and LaGuardia Gateway Partners to fund the airport's new $4 billion Central Terminal upgrade.