Congress has approved the latest in a series of extensions to allow Federal Aviation Administration programs, including its Airport Improvement Program (AIP) construction grants, to continue operating. The new stopgap runs through March 31.

Final congressional action came on Dec. 10, with passage by the Senate. The House had approved the measure two days earlier. The bill next goes to the White House, for President Obama's expected signature.

The measure would succeed the current stopgap, which expires Dec. 31.

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman James Oberstar
(D-Minn.) notes that the extension includes $2 billion in contract authority for AIP, which provides grants for runways, taxiways and other infrastructure. Those authorizations are subject to annual appropriations.

The new stopgap also extends the passenger ticket tax and other aviation excise taxes through March 31. Those taxes flow into the Airport and Airway Trust Fund. Oberstar said the measure extends FAA's authority through March
31 to tap the trust fund to finance the agency's programs.

The last multi-year FAA authorization expired Sept. 30, 2007. Congress has been unable to clear a new long-term bill, which has led to several short extensions.

The House did pass a three-year, $53.5-billion FAA bill in May. In the Senate, the commerce committee approved a two-year, $34.5-billion measure in July, but there has been no further action on it since then.