Airports in the U.S. need $71.3 billion over five years to expand, rebuild and upgrade terminals, runways and other infrastructure, an Airports Council International-North America, or ACI-NA, survey says. Released on Jan. 29, the report says that while large and medium hubs have funds secured or expected for 65% of capital needs, small hubs have 81% of funds committed or expected.

The total is down 11% from ACI-NA's 2011 survey, but the group says the average $14.3 billion a year outpaces income from federal Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grants and passenger facility charges (PFCs). AIP aid is important for small hubs, providing 48% of committed funds. Bonds, some backed by PFCs, are the big hubs' main funding source.

Terminal work is the largest category of planned projects, at $21 billion, and reconstruction is second, at $12.3 billion. ACI-NA also said 16 airports each report capital needs of $1 billion or more.

David Bauer, American Road & Transportation Builders Association senior vice president, agrees that needs exceed funding. The four-year aviation authorization enacted in February 2012 "basically cut AIP investment by about $165 million a year," he notes. The law didn't hike PFCs. Action on PFCs isn't likely until October 2015, when the 2012 bill lapses. Congressional appropriators could decide to boost annual AIP levels, but deficit pressure will make a hike tough to win.


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