- The Federal Aviation Administration has updated its "Standard Specifications for Construction of Airports" advisory circular to include precast-specific language for concrete drainage structures. The previous spec made no mention of precast concrete and primarily featured cast-in-place methods.
- The updated guidance also requires that precast concrete structures be provided by a plant meeting the requirements of the National Precast Concrete Association (NPCA) Plant Certification Program or a Resident Project Representative-approved third-party equivalent.
- The new specifications are mandatory for all projects funded by federal grants, such as the Airport Improvement Program (AIP), and for projects funded by Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) ticket fees.
NPCA President Ty Gable called the change a “big deal” for the precast industry. No longer will designers have to convince local airport authorities to use precast, he said in a blog post. Precast suppliers and contractors are poised to get a bigger piece of construction and renovation projects at the more than 19,000 airports in the U.S. Further, the change could have a “domino effect” on other federal agencies that reference the FAA’s specifications in their own construction documents.
Funding mechanisms like the AIP and PFC programs have generated more than $7 billion per year in recent years. In 2017, PFC collections totaled nearly $3.3 billion, and the FAA expects 2018 and 2019 numbers to increase to roughly $3.4 billion and $3.6 billion, respectively. More than 360 airports collect PFCs, using these funds to pay for FAA-approved projects ranging from noise reduction to facility expansions.
The AIP program doles out more than $3 billion each year for projects as varied as runway construction and new lighting or signage. AIP grants cover from 75% to 95% of the cost of eligible projects, depending on the size of the airport and what kind of improvements are being made. In 2018, AIP awards totaled more than $3.5 billion.
However, according to Airports Council International-North America, the nation’s airports have $100 billion of infrastructure needs through 2021. Driving those estimates are the increase in passenger and cargo volume as well as the desire on the part of airlines to provide travelers with more amenities.
To meet these needs, some airport advocates have suggested increasing the PFC cap of $4.50 per flight. Depending on how many legs are in a passenger's trip, this works out to a maximum PFC of $9 for one-way trips and $18 for round trips. That fee hasn’t changed since 2000. Federal lawmakers have consistently refused to raise the PFC, though, amid criticism from consumer advocates that it’s another tax.