- The U.S. Department of Transportation will release $527.8 million in funding for the Federal Aviation Administration's Airport Improvement Program.
- Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced the grants, which will be allocated across 584 airports for infrastructure improvements like runway repairs, lighting, fencing and marking.
- Also included in the grant is discretionary funding for 38 airports where capital needs have exceeded existing funding amounts, which are determined according to each airport's passenger traffic.
One of the largest discretionary grants, $60 million, will go toward adding a $649 million sixth runway at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago. Project officials said the new runway will provide the capacity equal to a third airport and create 6,000 jobs along the way. The runway should be ready for use in 2020.
Other major grants include $8 million for taxiway improvements at Columbia Metropolitan Airport in Columbia, SC, and $18 million for a temporary runway, lighting and navigational aids at Asheville Regional Airport in Asheville, NC. Grants will also be used for much smaller items, such as a $350,000 noise monitoring system at Boise Air Terminal/Gowen Field in Boise, ID.
This latest FAA funding is sure to be welcome news for airport officials that are struggling to maintain their infrastructure. However, according to a recent Airports Council International—North America report, it would take about $100 billion over five years to make the necessary repairs and upgrades at the country's airports.
The FAA's AIP budget is about $3 billion annually, but that doesn't include the giant terminal replacement and associated commercial expansion projects the industry has seen kick off in the last few years.
For instance, at Tampa International Airport, officials are underway with a $2.3 billion multiphase expansion. The $971 million first phase has started and includes retail, restaurants, a new people mover system and a new rental car facility.
The Hillsborough County (FL) Aviation Authority announced last week that it had approved the second phase of the project, which is projected to cost $543 million and will include 17 acres of commercial development around the airport, part of the authority's plan to create long-term revenue streams to support airport operations. The third phase is estimated at $798 million and will see the construction of a 16-gate international and domestic terminal.