FAA awards grants for airport infrastructure improvements across 29 states
The Federal Aviation Administration announced this week that it plans to award $282.6 million in Airport Improvement Grants (AIGs) to 67 airports in 29 states.
Connecticut’s Waterbury-Oxford Airport ($28.9 million), Louisiana’s Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport ($26.1 million) and North Dakota’s Williston Airport ($21.3 million) received the largest individual discretionary grants.
So far this year, the FAA has announced a total of $2.3 billion in funding across 1,428 new grants and 1,210 airports for runway and taxiway projects.
This is the ninth round of AIG funding announcements yet this year, occurring in rapid succession this summer. The U.S. Department of Transportation started in July, announcing it would award $105.3 million across 133 airports. The airports receiving funds range in size and their projects focus primarily on modest upgrades to runways, taxiways, signage and lighting.
The AIP’s current annual budget of $3.35 billion, however, is not enough to cover the massive overhauls that many airports in the country require. For example, the Skanska-led Terminal B upgrade at New York’s LaGuardia Airport alone is expected to ring in at $4 billion — and that’s not including a separate and equally costly project to overhaul Delta Air Line’s terminal at the airport.
U.S. airports face a $100 billion deficit for infrastructure improvements, according to a March report from The Airports Council International–North America. That’s more than twice what airports generate through user fees, grants and revenues, which is their typical funding base for such work.
Airport officials and lawmakers are exploring a few ways to raise that base. One is by increasing the passenger facility charge from $4.50, where it has been since 2000. Some airports want to raise that fee to as much as $8.50 per passenger, saying the move could raise enough money to allow reductions in federal allocations to the AIP, The Hill reported.
Another is new legislation in the House and Senate that considers a phased-in budget increase from the AIP, though it does not recommend a change to the passenger fee.
Public-private partnerships (P3s) are also being explored to generate the funding needed for large projects while allowing the private sector, which brings in the expertise of construction and project management, to have a more direct stake in building and operations. In addition to the P3 at LaGuardia, Kansas City (MO) International airport is likely to upgrade its terminal via P3 and is currently reviewing bids from four development and construction teams.