The House has approved a $53.5-billion measure to fund Federal Aviation Administration programs for the next three years, including an increase for airport construction grants and a hike in airport passenger facility charges (PFCs), which finance infrastructure work. But prospects for final congressional approval rest with the Senate, where a multi-year FAA bill has yet to emerge.

Photo: Aileen Cho for ENR
Funding levels are uncertain for airports, like this one, now completed, in North Carolina.

The last multi-year FAA measure lapsed last Sept. 30. But with a successor bill bogged down in the Senate, FAA programs have been operating since then under a series of extensions. The most recent stopgap runs through Sept. 30.

The new House bill, approved May 21 on a 277-136 vote, is similar to a version that the House passed in 2007. It would authorize a total of $12.3 billion for FAA's Airport Improvement Program grants, which fund runway, taxiway and other projects. The measure's AIP allocations would start at $4 billion in 2010, then rise to $4.1 billion in 2011 and $4.2 billion in 2012. Those authorizations would be subject to annual appropriations. AIP's 2009 appropriation is slightly more than $3.5 billion.

In addition, the House bill would raise the ceiling on PFCs to $7 per flight segment, from the current $4.50. Airports Council International-North America President Greg Principato praised House lawmakers for increasing the PFC cap, which he said will enable airports to "build and enhance runways and terminals to meet the demands of the traveling public."

Still, the bill falls short of airport officials' earlier goal--a $7.50 PFC ceiling, plus a provision to index the fee for future inflation.

The legislation does contain a three-year extension for user fees that flow into the Airport and Airway Trust Fund and includes a boost for general aviation fuel taxes. Those increases would raise an estimated $1.3 billion for the trust fund over 10 years.