White House announces $1 billion in grants to upgrade America’s airport terminals

Yahoo News

The Biden Administration continues to roll out new infrastructure money and is announcing an infusion of cash for one the most visible infrastructure challenges: U.S. airport terminals. 

On Thursday, the White House unveiled $1 billion in new grants to upgrade those often uncomfortable spaces where passengers arrive and then sit waiting for their flights.

“Airports are the gateway to America’s communities. They are often the first thing that you see when you arrive in a new place and the last thing you see when you leave,” Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg said during a preview of today’s announcement, adding that this new money would improve every aspect of that experience.

“These investments are going to make your journeys easier,” Buttigieg vowed.

‘Just the beginning of what we are going to do’

Airports and their outdated facilities have long been a symbol of America “falling behind.” There are myriad lists online of the worst airports in the United States — and Buttigieg notes that when airports around the world are ranked by quality, U.S. airports sometimes don’t even crack the top 25.

The money to try and change that will come from the so-called Airport Terminal Program which is being funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure law signed by Biden late last year.

The program will give out annual waves of $1 billion for terminal upgrades over the next 5 years.

“The first $1 billion we are talking about today is, by the way, just the beginning of what we are going to do to modernize our airports,” noted White House Senior Adviser Mitch Landrieu, who is overseeing implementation of the overall infrastructure law.

In total, there is $20 billion put aside in the law for various airport improvement projects in the coming years. Biden officials tout that the money is allowing the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to expand its role in the nation’s airports beyond solely things like runways, air traffic-control facilities and other “back-of-house infrastructure” to more public-facing things like the amenities inside terminals.

Buttigieg, the father of twin babies, made sure to note that parents can expect more changing tables in the years ahead.

In total, 85 airports are set to get new funds in the months ahead to take on projects focused on expanding capacity, increasing energy efficiency, and providing greater accessibility.

Seventy grants in total were announced this week for terminal capacity efforts — including an entirely new terminal for Pittsburgh’s airport. In other places, like in Orlando, Chattanooga and elsewhere, new gates will be added. Other grants focus on revamping existing terminals to improve efficiency and amenities.

Other grants were focused on pushing airports towards net-zero carbon emissions. Another tranche of grants will go toward improving airport access via better roads, compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and similar efforts.

A ‘more resilient system for the long term’

According to the FAA, the new program was very competitive — with 658 applications coming in from around 532 airports around the country.

Some of the America’s biggest and busiest airports were notably not on the list, with officials promising that larger scale projects may get added in the years ahead. They also note that some of the nation’s biggest airports – because of the higher traffic they process each day – have more funds for projects because of higher revenue from airport improvement fees, which are collected from tickets sold.

Thursday’s announcement also comes as the airline industry and passengers grapple with what’s so far a summer of airline delays. Over the recent Fourth of July weekend, over 2,400 domestic flights were canceled, a sky-high number but actually a downturn from earlier in the summer.

The problems have to tension around the country where “service workers in airports report a very acute level of stress that is due to understaffing and because, understandably, the traveling public is mad about delayed flights and cancellations” Service Employees International Union (SEIU) International President Mary Kay Henry told Yahoo Finance earlier this week.

Pressed on whether the money announced Thursday would have any tie-ins to the current delays, Buttigieg touted that some of his work this summer is to focus on delays, adding that “all of this adds up to a better supported, more resilient system for the long term even as we are working through more immediate issues this summer.”


One thought on “White House announces $1 billion in grants to upgrade America’s airport terminals

  1. Well, this should take care of at least one or two airports, and after all, it’s $1 Billion dollars!! And we know Zelensky needs $750 BILLION.

    Just can’t wait to see those renovations.


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