$1B from infrastructure act released to upgrade airports

Dive Brief:

  • The Federal Aviation Administration will award about $1 billion from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to repair and improve terminals at 85 airports across the country, the White House announced Thursday. The FAA prioritized projects that could be implemented quickly, demonstrate strong labor standards and use renewable construction materials, among other criteria.
  • This is the first round of grants over a five-year period from the $5 billion Airport Terminal Program, one of three aviation funding programs created by the infrastructure act. The infrastructure act contains another $5 billion for air traffic facilities and $15 billion for aviation infrastructure.
  • “The grants expand capacity at our nation’s airport terminals, increase energy efficiency, promote competition and provide greater accessibility for individuals with disabilities,” the White House press release said. “Building better airport terminals will improve customer experiences, move goods through the economy more efficiently to lower prices and enhance U.S. competitiveness.”

Dive Insight:

Typically, municipalities and airlines pay for airport improvements. The federal government has also chipped in about $15 billion annually from 2017 to 2020, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers, mostly for runways, traffic control towers and back-of-house infrastructure. However, a funding shortfall persists, as does a backlog of needed repairs and upgrades. The ASCE gave U.S. aviation infrastructure a D+ grade in its 2021 Infrastructure Report Card, which shows terminal investments are the most dire need for airports of all sizes across the country.

According to the Airport Terminal Program funding formula, large hub airports will receive up to 55% of the total funding, medium airports will get 15% and small airports will receive 20%. The first round of grant winners includes projects of all sizes.

Demand for the first round of Airport Terminal Program funds was high: The FAA received 658 applications across 532 airports, according to Forbes. 

Here are some terminal projects set to receive funds

  • Orlando International Airport will get $50 million to build four gates.
  • Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport will receive $35 million to construct a zero-carbon electrical central utility plant.
  • Pittsburgh International Airport will get $20 million to build a new terminal.
  • Austin Bergstrom International Airport will receive $15 million to complete Phase 2 of its expansion project, including new sustainability, accessibility and wayfinding features.
  • Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport will get $14.4 million to expand and update a temporary terminal into a permanent, ADA-compliant facility.

This round, 70 of the awarded grants contain an element to expand terminal capacity, 76 will increase sustainability, 47 will improve access to historically disadvantaged populations and rural airports and 73 will boost access to travelers with disabilities, per the White House. 

In addition, two $15 million grants will fund construction of new air traffic control towers, one at Peoria International Airport in Illinois and the other at Asheville Regional Airport in North Carolina.

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