Airports will require an estimated $80.1 billion in capital projects over the next five years to upgrade and expand runways, terminals and other infrastructure, the Airports Council International-North America says in a new survey.
The total is substantial, but represents a 15% decline from the amount projected in ACI-NA's 2009 report, reflecting projects deferred or cancelled.
In releasing the report on Feb. 23, ACI-NA President Greg Principato said that for airport officials and airport users, "These projects are considered essential...to meet forecasted passenger and cargo growth."
But in a conference call with reporters, he also observed that airports have delayed or cancelled "billions of dollars in projects" because of the recession and a decline in the number of flights.
The new report is based on reports from 107 airports. It shows that the largest share of the projected capital work is at large hub airports, which account for $39.9 billion, or nearly 50% of the total. But the large hubs' estimated volume is down 28% from the 2009 survey.
Looking at project types, terminal work constitutes the biggest segment, with $22.7 billion, or 28% of the total needs.
Projects aimed at increasing airfield capacity are pegged at $14.5 billion, or 18% of the total; and airfield reconstruction projects amount to $13.4 billion, or 17%, ACI-NA says.
The estimated $16 billion in average annual needs outpace available funds, ACI-NA officials say. In 2010, two key infrastructure funding sources, federal Airport Improvement Program construction grants and airports' passenger facility charges (PFCs), totaled about $6.3 billion.
Airport bonds are another important source of project financing, particularly for agencies that operate major hubs.
ACI-NA would like to see Congress increase the current $4.50 cap on PFCs, or remove the limit entirely.
But an aviation authorization bill recently approved by the Senate would keep the current $4.50 cap, except at up to six airports, which would have no limit. In the House, an aviation bill that has cleared committee has no change in the $4.50 PFC cap.