Legislation to reauthorize Federal Aviation Administration programs, including airport construction grants, is moving again on Capitol Hill. At ENR press time, the House was on the verge of a vote on a six-year bill that would freeze authorizations for Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grants at $3.35 billion a year through fiscal 2023.
The bill’s main author, Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), proposed an amendment authorizing $5.3 billion over five years for a new airport infrastructure grant program for rural non-hub airports. It was likely to be added to the bill.
Construction officials hoped the House also would add amendments to boost AIP funds and remove the $4.50 cap on passenger facility charges (PFCs), a key construction funding source. It was unclear whether either would be adopted.
An amendment from Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Pa.) would raise AIP gradually, to about $4 billion in 2023. Brian Deery, senior director of the Associated General Contractors of America highway and transportation division, says, “Obviously, we’d like to see that [AIP program] boosted up.” He adds, “There’s money in the [aviation] trust fund for it and it’s been flat-level funding for a lot of years.”
If Barletta’s AIP amendment fails, airport grants still will have a banner year. Authorizations are subject to an annual appropriation. AIP’s is $4.3 billion this year, thanks to a $1-billion infusion in the 2018 omnibus spending measure.
An amendment from Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), would eliminate the PFC cap, set at $4.50 since 2000. FAA pegs 2017 PFC collections at $3.3 billion.
Industry sees the six-year House measure as a welcome change after three stopgaps since July 2016. The latest extension, enacted March 23 in the omnibus package, lapses Sept. 30.
The Senate Commerce Committee last June cleared a four-year FAA bill with annual AIP hikes, topping out at $3.75 billion. It keeps the $4.50 PFC cap. A Senate aide says, “We’re hoping to have a long-term reauthorization in place by August.” Dave Bauer, American Road & Transportation Builders Association executive vice president, says, “If the House approves a bill, every indication that we’ve heard …from [Hill] leadership and others is that FAA is one of the things that they’re going to do in the remainder of the year.”