Aviation trust fund keeps airport construction soaring

To date, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has announced $1.3 billion in grants to airports nationwide for Fiscal Year 2016 through the Airport Improvement Program (AIP). The program provides grants to public agencies – and, in some cases, to private owners and entities – for the planning and development of public-use airports that are included in the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems (NPIAS).

The AIP is paid for by the Airport and Airway Trust Fund, w
hich is primarily supported by excise taxes on passenger tickets as well as cargo and fuel taxes. Congress recently reauthorized spending from the trust fund through the FAA Extension, Safety, and Security Act of 2016.

The Lake Charles Regional Airport in Louisiana will receive a $1.2 million AIP grant announced this week to update its taxiway lighting system. The airport will replace the outdated taxiway lights with LED lights and put wiring that is currently buried into conduit.

Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport officials in Montana recently announced a $3.5 million grant to fix one of their airport’s taxiways and upgrade its lighting system. An additional $2.3 million has been allocated to construct a runway.

New York’s Syracuse Hancock International Airport will receive $2.4 million in two grants. The first grant of $1.9 million will be used to replace outdated passenger-boarding bridges in the airport terminal. The second grant of $500,000 will be used for design services to help reconfigure exit taxiways.

The Airport and Airway Trust Fund was established in 1970 to provide a dedicated source of funding for the U.S. aviation system separate from the general fund. The fund carried a balance of $14 billion at the beginning of the fiscal year.

AIP grants can be used for up to 75 percent of eligible costs at large and medium airports and up to 95 percent of eligible costs at small and general aviation airports. Eligible projects include improvements related to airport safety, capacity, security and environmental concerns. AIP funds are available for most airfield capital improvement projects if the FAA determines the projects are justified based on civil aeronautical demand. Qualifying airports must be publicly owned; privately owned, but designated by the FAA as a reliever; or privately owned, but schedules at least 2,500 annual enplanements.