Airport construction would get a boost under the two-year Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill the Senate approved on Feb. 17. The legislation, introduced by commerce committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), would hike funding for Airport Improvement Program (AIP) construction grants, to $4 billion in the bill’s first year and $4.1 billion in the bill’s second year from the current $3.5 billion.

But industry officials worry the Senate numbers will not hold. A four-year bill making its way through the House of Representatives would trim AIP to $3.1 billion in fiscal 2011 and to $3 billion in 2012 and 2013.

The bill, which the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee cleared on Feb. 16, is expected to pass the full House, though it may be amended slightly on the floor, says Jane Calderwood, Airports Council International-North America’s vice president for government and political affairs. She notes that AIP funding “will be an issue of contention” in an expected House-Senate conference to reconcile differences between the two bills.

Brian Deery, senior director of the Associated General Contractors of America’s highway and transportation division, concurs, saying the makeup of the new House is much more budget-conscious. “I’m not sure we’re going to get the Senate spending level” in conference, he says.

Neither the House nor the Senate bill raises the cap on passenger facility charges, which also fund airport infrastructure projects.

There have been 17 FAA authorization extensions since Sept. 30, 2007, when the last multiyear bill expired. The current extension expires on March 31.