The House has approved a bill that aims to encourage airport incentive payments to contractors to expedite runway upgrades and other infrastructure. Under the legislation, which the House passed on Oct. 1, incentive payments of up to $1 million would become an eligible use of federal Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grant funds.

The measure, however, does not authorize increased AIP funding, which totaled $3.35 billion in fiscal year 2020. Under the proposed legislation, it would be up to individual airport authorities to use the incentives.

Rep. Sam Graves (Mo.), the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s top Republican—and the bill’s sponsor—said in a statement, “This is a smart reform that already works for road and bridge project construction, and delivering airport projects ahead of schedule can help save money and essentially provide a similar impact as increasing investment without any additional federal resources.”

The Airports Council International-North America (ACI-NA) and American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) welcomed the House action. They said in a joint statement that the measure would permit airports to “incentivize the early completion of critical infrastructure projects.”

The Associated General Contractors of America also supports the bill.

In the Senate, the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee approved a nearly identical bill on July 22, on a voice vote.  There has been no floor action yet.

But the airport organizations’ more pressing legislative priority has been trying to secure additional help from Congress to cushion the severe pandemic-induced financial blows being experienced by the travel industry. The revised coronavirus relief bill that the House approved on Oct. 1 includes $13.5 billion for airports.

But on Oct. 6, President Trump abruptly ended talks between Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) that sought to produce a compromise coronavirus relief package. Trump said that instead he would pursue "a major Stimulus Bill" after the Nov. 3 elections.

Story updated on 10/7/2020 with Trump announcement on coronavirus relief negotiations.