Leaders of U.S. airports are calling on the federal government to reauthorize a multiyear Federal Aviation Administration funding program, raise the cap on passenger facility charges and play a smaller role in the construction and management of airport facilities.
“We’re extremely disappointed in Congress’s failure to act on FAA reauthorization,” said Hardy Acree, director of airports for the Sacramento City Airport System. Acree is the 2010 chairman of Airports Council International-North America, which held its 19th annual conference in Pittsburgh on Sept. 26-29.
Congress last month approved the 14th stopgap measure in lieu of a multi-year FAA reauthorization bill, while the House and Senate try to reconcile their proposals. ACI-NA agrees with the House version’s proposal to raise PFCs to $7 from $4.50 to fund airport construction programs. Acree notes that on the American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2010 infrastructure report card, airport infrastructure faces an $87-billion need and a $40.7-billion shortfall over five years.
Canadian Airports Council Chairman Bill Restall noted that the Canadian government’s recent decision to cede all airports to the management of local authorities “was a boon for us.” But the airports seek new financial models to move forward, he added. U.S. counterparts emphasized a desire for the FAA to decrease oversight and burdensome regulations.
For example, 42% of all delays in airport projects are due to delays in federally required environmental review processes, said Acree, which means an average of $150 million in extra costs at a time when airports are committed to the goal of becoming carbon-neutral.
Officials reacted to the speech by U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano urging 90 nations to install more body scanners and other new security measures. Acree says new screening technologies eventually will drive terminal modifications. “We can’t work on the basis of every passenger being screened every time,” said Max Moore-Wilton, ACI chairman. “There has to be some way to use intelligence to focus on the real risk.”