The federal government is making its first major foray into funding airport terminal improvement projects, announcing nearly $1 billion in grants awarded to 85 airports across the nation.

One of three aviation funding initiatives created by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), the FAA-administered five-year, $5 billion Airport Terminal Program is designed to support new construction and modernization projects with elements to expand capacity, increase energy efficiency, promote competition and enhance accessibility for individuals with disabilities.

Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg said, at a June 6 press briefing, that while the terminal grants program marks a departure from the federal government’s traditional role of funding runways, traffic-control towers and “back-of-house infrastructure,” many airports continue to struggle with the demand to efficiently move passengers and goods, particularly given the rebound in post-pandemic travel.

“We’re delighted to see demand return,” Buttigieg said, “but we need to make sure that there is the capacity to meet it for the long run.”

Selected from nearly 660 applications for current and near-term projects at more than 530 airports, the 270 grant recipients run the gamut of size and scope. For example, Pittsburgh International Airport will receive $20 million for its new 700,000-sq-ft landside terminal, while a $5-million grant for Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport will support the first phase of a 27,000-sq-ft expansion that will add two gates and expand a third. 

Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport is receiving a $35-million grant to construct a zero-carbon central utility plant, powered by electricity, to assist in achieving its goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2030. The Fillmore County, Minn., Airport will use its $950,000 grant to replace a 41-year-old terminal that does not meet Americans with Disabilities Act requirements.

In addition, Gen. Wayne A. Downing Peoria International Airport in Peoria, Ill., and Asheville, N.C., Regional Airport each will receive a $15-million grant to replace 60-year-old air traffic control towers. A $1.67-million grant for Gainesville, Fla., Regional Airport will improve the landside multimodal ground transport facility.

Buttigieg declined to speculate how the IIJA’s $25 billion in new aviation funding will affect negotiations for next year’s scheduled reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration Act, which includes the airside-focused Airport Improvement Program. 

Noting that passenger facility charges will continue to play an important role in airport improvements, he added, “I don’t think anybody can look at airports across America today and say that the existing system and existing levels of funding have been adequate.”