U.S. airports are about to undergo some significant upgrades. Eight months after President Biden signed the infrastructure bill into law, his administration is granting $1 billion to 85 airports across the country to improve terminals, the White House announced Thursday.
“It’s going to help make air travel safer, more accessible and more efficient,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg on a call with reporters yesterday. “And it’s going to create a lot of good jobs in communities of all sizes.”
The bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act included a pot of $5 billion for airport terminal improvement projects as part of an overall budget of $20 billion for airport infrastructure.
Traditionally, municipalities and airlines have footed the costs for airport improvement projects. “But I don’t think anybody could look at airports across America today and say that the existing system and the existing levels of funding had been adequate,” said Buttigieg. “America is a country that brought the modern aviation age to the world. And yet around the world, in most rankings of airport quality, not one of our airports ranks among the top 25. That’s something that we have to change.”
This is the first round of grants in a five-year program. The government received 658 applications across 532 airports, which Buttigieg was a sign of “definitely a very competitive program.”
To qualify for a grant this year, airports had to agree to start their project’s construction by the beginning of the next fiscal year.
Seventy grants will be used to expand terminal capacity at airports and 76 grants contain an element that will increase terminal sustainability. Seventy-three grants will be used to provide greater access to travelers with disabilities. Forty-seven grants will go to improving airport access to historically disadvantaged populations and rural airports.
Some winning applicants this year include:
- Orlando International Airport is receiving $50 million to construct four new gates, provide ADA-compliant facilities and achieve LEED sustainability certification.
- Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport has been awarded $35 million to construct a zero-carbon electrical central utility plant to assist the airport in achieving its goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2030.
- Pittsburgh International Airport is getting $20 million to construct a new 700,000-square-foot terminal and includes an improved passenger security screening checkpoint, checked baggage inspection system and more.
- Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport is receiving $5 million to expand its second level by nearly 27,000 square feet to allow for new gates, a new set of restrooms, an additional TSA screening lane and more.
- Bishop International Airport in Flint, Michigan will use $3.5 million to replace the terminal roof with energy efficient materials, including improved insulation to reduce energy consumption.
- Fillmore County Airport in Preston, Minnesota will receive $950,000 to replace an existing facility that does not meet ADA requirements.
- Chamberlain Municipal Airport in South Dakota is receiving $855,000 to construct a new general aviation terminal.
- Two airports — General Wayne A. Downing Peoria International Airport and Asheville Regional Airport — will get $15 million each to build new air traffic control towers.
Airports that missed out this year can apply next year. “They have five years to seek this funding,” said Shannetta Griffin, the FAA’s associate administrator for airports. “We should be able to see very significant changes at airports across the country, both small and large, with this funding.”