The FAA has begun doling out more than $520 million to help finance improvements to 341 airports, including one that does not yet exist. The fiscal 2017 grants were announced in batches starting July 6 as Congress considers legislation that would afford general aviation airports more flexibility to spend federal funds in a way that best matches local needs.
Meanwhile, the 2017 federal Airport Improvement Program grants announced to date range from a few thousand dollars to several million. Airports are awarded fixed annual amounts based on traffic volume, with additional discretionary funds awarded for high-priority projects that exceed the local airport’s capital budget. Discretionary grants recently announced include $4.7 million to complete construction of Sioux County Regional Airport in Sioux Center, Iowa. The new airport will replace two existing airports, Orange City Municipal Airport and Sioux Center Municipal Airport.
FAA Administrator Michael Huerta, in a press release, noted that airports remain economic engines as well as transportation hubs, and construction and rehabilitation projects funded through the program create thousands of jobs.
“AIP allows us to invest in the long-term safety and economic vitality of our nation’s airports,” Huerta said of the program.
The grants were announced and published online, starting July 6 with two separate lists, one that details $105.3 million in grants to 133 airports, and another list detailing $230 million in grants to 104 airports. This list that covers $230 million in grants includes block grants for several states: Illinois ($16.8 million), Michigan ($18 million), Missouri ($13.2 million), New Hampshire ($2.2 million), Pennsylvania ($7.7 million), and Texas ($19.7 million). The state grants are designated for non-primary airport development projects.
A third list of 2017 grants was announced July 12, with $185.1 million in airport improvement funding. Highlights of this most recent announcement include $3 million for noise mitigation at Tweed-New Haven Airport in Connecticut and $6.9 million to extend Runway 5/23 at T.F. Green State Airport in Warwick, Rhode Island.
AOPA has backed a bipartisan bill, the Forward Looking Investment in GA, Hangars and Tarmacs (FLIGHT) Act, that would give local airports more flexibility to spend funds awarded annually, such as banking those allocations over multiple years to tackle larger projects. The legislation also would provide funding to prepare and equip airports for disaster response.
AOPA Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Jim Coon welcomed the recent AIP grant announcements: “We are glad to see these funds being used, and we also hope Congress takes steps to give smaller airports more flexibility in how they access and use these grants.”
AOPA is also backing the U.S. Senate version of the FAA reauthorization bill, which funds infrastructure investment and other measures that benefit GA in the long term.