By Eileen Houlihan, senior writer/editor, ARTBA

Current airport construction funding levels are only half of what is necessary to make safety improvements and help reduce runway congestion, according to a new ARTBA analysis of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) data.

The U.S. House and Senate are debating legislation to reauthorize the FAA and the nation’s aviation programs before the Sept. 30 deadline imposed by an earlier extension.

The FAA awarded $3.29 billion in Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grants to U.S. states and territories in 2016, ARTBA’s analysis shows.  Airports used 68 percent of those funds—$2.26 billion—for infrastructure investments.  This included the construction, rehabilitation, expansion or improvement of taxiways, aprons, runways and airport access roads.

Grants were awarded to 1,398 airports in 2016, accounting for 41 percent of the nearly 3,400 airports that are eligible for AIP funding.  These airports have identified a total of about $6.5 billion annually—or $32.4 billion over the next five years—for projects that could be eligible for AIP grants, according to FAA.  Current AIP funding will only cover half of the cost of all potential projects.

“These types of projects and other airport infrastructure needs can be addressed by increasing Airport Improvement Program investment—which has be held flat for the past six years—and increasing or lifting the cap on the passenger facility charge,” said ARTBA Chief Economist Dr. Alison Premo Black.  “We think both are needed and needed now.”

See the state-by-state breakdown of AIP grants and funding needs by airports.