Both the U.S. House and Senate have introduced multi-year legislation that would increase funding for airport construction, according to Engineering News-Record.
The Federal Aviation Administration's Airport Improvement Program would see phased-in increases from 2017's $3.35 billion budget under both bills — a 9% average annual increase under the four-year Senate proposal and an 8% increase under the six-year House plan. Neither changes the passenger facility charge, which has been capped at $4.50 since 2000 and is a primary source of AIP revenue.
The Associated General Contractors of America said the new measures are a good start, as AIP funding has not changed much for a long period of time. The Airports Council International – North America said eliminating the PFC cap is necessary to address airport infrastructure needs. Airport officials are also keen on Congress removing the cap.
Earlier this month, U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced an extra $527.8 million in AIP support. The money will be disbursed among 584 airports and includes discretionary funds for 38 airports where capital needs have exceeded existing funding. A $649 million new runway under construction at Chicago O'Hare International Airport will receive a $60 million USDOT discretionary grant.
While additional money from either bill will certainly be welcome, both amounts pale in comparison to what is needed across the nation's airports. In March, an Airports Council report said that it would take about $100 billion over the next five years to make all the necessary infrastructure improvements at U.S. airports. This includes the relatively few projects that qualify for the limited AIP funds.
Some airports with massive infrastructure needs, like new terminals and major infrastructure work, have turned to public-private partnerships. For instance, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey recently turned over the $4 billion finance, design, build, maintenance and operation tasks for a new LaGuardia Airport terminal to the consortium of LaGuardia Gateway Partners.
Similarly, Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) has decided to execute a $2.7 billion people-mover project at the Los Angeles International Airport as a P3. LAWA has not announced the consortium that will perform the work, but project officials said the winning team will have even more reason to produce an excellent product if it has to also manage the maintenance responsibilities.