By David Bauer, senior vice president of government relations, ARTBA

Members of the Senate transportation appropriations subcommittee July 25 approved an FY 2018 U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) funding bill that, among other things, would raise the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) by $4.00 per originating flight to $8.50. The measure would also fully fund the 2015 FAST Act surface transportation law’s highway and public transportation program authorization levels.

The PFC is imposed by airports on departing flights and the revenues are used for infrastructure improvements.  While the PFC is a local charge, it is capped by federal law and has not changed since 2000. The Senate measure would also increase funding for the Airport Improvement Program (AIP)—which provides direct federal aid for airport infrastructure improvements, by $250 million to $3.6 billion.

The ARTBA co-chaired Transportation Construction Coalition urged the House Transportation & Infrastructure (T&I) Committee and the Senate Commerce, Science & Transportation Committee to raise the PFC cap and increase AIP investment in their respective multi-year federal aviation program reauthorization proposals. While both committees approved measures that would increase AIP investment, neither addressed the PFC.

The Senate’s FY 2018 transportation funding measure would provide $44.2 billion for the highway program—a $900 million increase—and $12.1 billion for the transit program—$285 million less than the FY 2017 level. Included in the bill’s public transportation funding is $2.1 billion for the Capital Investment Grant Program which supports transit construction projects.  The Trump Administration had requested only $1 billion for the program and proposed limiting the funds to only projects that had a full funding grant agreement with the Federal Transit Administration.  The Senate proposal, however, would fund existing agreements and all those expected to enter agreements in 2018.

The Senate’s DOT plan rejects a number of other Trump Administration proposals. In her opening statement, Subcommittee Chairman Susan Collins (R-Maine) said “the bill does not include the administration’s proposal to privatize the air traffic control system, which appears to be a solution in search of a problem.”  The House T&I Committee’s aviation bill would privatize the system.

The Senate measure also includes $550 million for the TIGER grant program, which provides communities grants for all modes of transportation projects.  The Trump budget proposed eliminating TIGER funding.

The full Senate Appropriations Committee is scheduled to consider the FY 2018 transportation appropriations bill July 27.  A comparison of the Senate measure and its House counterpart is below.

 

FY 2017 Enacted FY 2018 House FY 2018 Senate
Highways $43.27 billion $44.23 billion $44.23 billion
Transit Formula Grants $9.73 billion $9.73 billion $9.73 billion
Transit Capital Investment Grants $2.4 billion $1.75 billion $2.13 billion
AIP $3.35 billion $3.35 billion $3.6 billion
TIGER Grants $500 million $0 $550 million