House and Senate negotiators have reached final agreement on legislation to extend federal aviation programs for four years, including modest increases in airport construction grants plus as much as $500 million a year for airport security projects.
The new bill, "Vision 100Century of Aviation Reauthorization Act," would be the successor to AIR-21, the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act, which was signed into law in 2000.
Under the conferees agreement, announced on July 25, the Airport Improvement Programs construction grants would be set at $3.4 billion in fiscal 2004, up only $20 million from this years level. But the measure then would hike AIP by $100 million in each of the next three years, topping out at $3.7 billion in 2007.
In another key provision, conferees retained AIR-21s procedural protections that aim to ensure that aviation user fees are spent on construction and other aviation programs.
In addition, the lawmakers authorized $500 million annually for airport security work, but only half of that yearly total would be guaranteed funding. The security money would come from part of the security fee that airline passengers pay.
The conference agreement also includes provisions to expedite environmental approvals of runways and other capacity-adding projects.