Last year at this time, ENR Transportation Editor Aileen Cho was heading out on the “Low & Slow Across America’s Infrastructure” tour, exploring the nation’s aging roads and highways in a 1949 Hudson Commodore. This year, she will be flying in modern planes to explore the needs of the country’s airport infrastructure.
“After my three-week trip across the country with Dan McNichol, an infrastructure author on special assignment to ENR who still owns the antique car, I got several comments from sources suggesting that I do other infrastructure journeys,” Cho recounts. “People said, ‘It’s not all about highways! Why not explore ports, the rail system or airports?’ ”
Why not, indeed? We got interested in airports this year because there seems to be some will in Congress to reauthorize Federal Aviation Administration programs, including airport construction grants. A Senate measure passed on April 19 includes a 12% increase, to $3.75 billion, in 2017 FAA Airport Improvement Program grant funding to help pay for runways, taxiways and other infrastructure.
This week’s story on Orlando’s $3-billion capital improvement program through 2023 (see p. 8) sets the stage for continuing coverage throughout the year on airport construction projects and the issues facing airport owners as they struggle to keep up with the endless cycle of rebuilding to serve more planes, more cars and more people. Technology infrastructure needs continue to evolve, security issues never go away, and sustainability goals are ever more ambitions.
So far, the reporting challenges this year have been more commonplace—like touring a muddy, puddle-covered construction site in Orlando after heavy spring rains. Last year’s road trip was a bit more harrowing, Cho said, “like chugging up the Rockies from Denver to Reno, going 20 miles per hour on the shoulder while impatient big rigs zoomed ahead!”
But Cho is ready to try an Airbus 380 trip to an upgraded terminal, which can accommodate these new wide-body planes, or a corporate jet flight to explore the challenges of upgrading regional and general aviation airports. Send your ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.