Airports facing $100B in infrastructure needs

Airports facing $100B in infrastructure needs

U.S. airports are facing nearly $100 billion in infrastructure needs over the next five years, according to a new report.

That number is more than double the amount of funding that airports have available through their annual net income, federal grants and revenue from passenger fees.

The findings come as President Trump has vowed to modernize the country’s “third-world” airports, potentially through a $1 trillion infrastructure package.

The study from the Airports Council International-North America (ACI-NA) estimates that airports will need $99.9 billion over the next five years, or nearly $20 billion per year, to conduct facility upgrades and complete key projects.

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That figure represents a 32 percent increase from the last time ACI-NA released its report in 2015. The uptick in airport needs is largely driven by passenger and cargo growth, coupled with naturally aging infrastructure and maintenance needs.

The study also notes that some airport projects are not eligible for federal Airport Improvement Program grants. Congress provides $3.35 billion for eligible airport development projects each year.

“Local user fees are the most affordable and most responsible method for modernizing our airport infrastructure,” said Kevin M. Burke, ACI-NA’s president and CEO.

“By giving airports the ability to meet their local infrastructure needs without relying on additional federal funding, airports will be well positioned to maintain their leadership in the global aviation system.”

Airports have long complained about the federal cap on the amount of money they can charge passengers to help pay for facility improvements. The $4.50 limit on the fee that is added to every plane ticket, known as the passenger facility charge (PFC), hasn’t been raised in over 15 years.

Uncapping the PFC has been billed as one potential solution to help Trump pay for his promised airport upgrades.

Reps. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), ranking member on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) introduced new legislation that would lift the PFC cap while shaving $400 million from federal airport grants every year.

Lawmakers could revisit the issue when they debate legislation to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration, whose legal authority expires in September. But the PFC was left untouched in last year’s long-term proposal to reauthorize the agency.