U.S. Airports Get Nearly $1 Billion In Federal Funds For Makeovers

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More than 100 US airports will be awarded $970 million in federal grants, the latest effort to upgrade the nation’s infrastructure – a top priority of President Joe Biden.

The new funding, announced Thursday, comes as airports in recent years have raced to modernize terminals and add new amenities, seeking to ride a rebound in air travel after the coronavirus pandemic. The latest round is on top of the nearly $2 billion granted to airports over the past two years for capital improvement projects that include wider concourses, adding extra gates to accommodate more plane service and ensuring airports meet Americans with Disabilities Act standards.

“America has been thinking a lot about air traffic lately,” US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said on a call with reporters Wednesday. “A flight doesn’t begin just when you settle into your seat on board. First, you’re in the terminal and your experience depends in many ways on the conditions of that terminal building.”

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US airports need $151 billion over the 2023-to-2027 period to meet infrastructure needs, according to Airports Council International-North America. Passenger traffic returned to pre-pandemic levels very quickly, as travelers were eager to get back to business and personal trips.

Among the 114 airports to receive new funding are Chicago O’Hare International Airport in Illinois, with $40 million, and Salt Lake City International Airport in Utah, with $20 million. Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport was awarded the most money with $50 million.

The grants are a part of the Biden administration’s effort to promote projects backed by a bipartisan infrastructure law passed in 2021, highlighting funding for ports, transit, roads and bridges. The administration also said Thursday that it is moving to hold airlines, like it did with Southwest Airlines Co. in December, more accountable for better passenger service.

Meanwhile, city governments have turned to the $4 trillion municipal bond market to help fund long-term airport upgrades. Just last year, agencies overseeing airports in Chicago and San Diego have sold debt to help finance infrastructure projects.

In addition to having to modernize aging facilities, airports have had to adapt to climate change, preparing for more extreme weather events such as storm surges and coastal floodings.

(c) 2024, Bloomberg · Skylar Woodhouse 

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