Despite progress in Congress on a multiyear aviation measure, it looks like another extension—the 12th since 2007—is on its way for Federal Aviation Administration programs, including airport construction grants. The Senate on March 22 approved a two-year, $35-billion FAA authorization by a 93-0 vote. Todd Hauptli, American Association of Airport Executives’ senior executive vice president, says, “Passage of the Senate bill is an important step in the legislative process [and] overdue.” The aviation bill next must be reconciled with a three-year, $53.5-billion measure the House passed last May.

There’s no dispute about the funding for FAA Airport Improvement Program (AIP) infrastructure grants. The Senate and House measures each provide $4 billion in 2010 and $4.1 billion in 2011 for AIP.

Hauptli adds, “The airports are cautiously optimistic that Congress can … get a multiyear version of the bill enacted into law this year.”

For construction and airport groups, seeing a multiyear aviation bill enacted would be a welcome change. FAA programs have been functioning under extensions since Sept. 30, 2007, when the last long-term bill lapsed. But the latest stopgap expires on March 31, and the House and Senate aren’t likely to agree on a new multiyear bill by then.

The bills do have differences. For example, the House measure hikes the cap on passenger facility charges (PFCs) to $7, from $4.50. The Senate bill keeps the $4.50 limit, except at six airports. PFCs are used to fund airport construction.

“There will need to be an extension,” says Hauptli. With the deadline looming, the House on March 17 passed a new stopgap that runs through July 3.

It would authorize $3 billion for AIP during that period. Those funds are subject to AIP’s appropriation of $3.5 billion for all fiscal 2010.

One possible complication is that the House FAA stopgap also reallocates $932 million in highway aid to all states. The just-signed HIRE Act parcels out that money among 28 states.