Airports around US receive $1 billion in federal infrastructure funds – The Points Guy


Airports around the country are about to clear the upgrade list.

Nearly $1 billion in grants were awarded by the federal government to 114 U.S. airports on Thursday, part of a push to modernize U.S. infrastructure.

The money comes from the 2021 bipartisan infrastructure act, which sets aside five years of grant funding to modernize the country’s air travel infrastructure under the Airport Terminal Program — one of a few aviation-oriented aspects of the overall law.

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Funds will go to a variety of projects ranging from new faster, more efficient baggage systems and larger, more navigable security checkpoints to new terminal buildings, expanded ground transportation areas and refurbished air traffic control towers.

During a press conference at Charlotte-Douglas International Airport (CLT), which will receive $27 million towards replacing aging jet bridges, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said that while some of the funding will go to less splashy projects, those are still essential to the overall travel experience.

“Not even most of us infrastructure nerds get up in the morning thinking about jet bridges,” Buttigieg said. “But if your flight arrives on time, only for you to be stuck waiting to get off because of an issue with the jet bridge, you’re thinking about nothing else.”

Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) will get $35 million towards a new 14-gate terminal building, and Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC) will use $20 million towards its expansion of Concourse B, which currently serves most airlines aside from Delta.

The largest award goes to Fort Lauderdale International Airport (FLL) and will be used to connect the airport’s terminals post-security, making it easier for passengers to navigate the airport and possibly allowing for more connections there.

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One of the largest awards, $40 million, will go to Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) to fund passenger experience and accessibility improvements to Terminal 3, such as a widening of the central corridor, a “reconfigured” security checkpoint and new ADA-compliant restrooms.

Some of the projects also involve making airports more sustainable and resilient to severe weather amid climate change. For instance, Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY) will get $7 million to fund the construction of a new foundation for one of the airport’s major connector roads, which is currently built in an area of ground that’s eroded due to flooding.

Smaller airports also got funds under the program, including Punta Gorda Airport (PGD) in Florida ($10 million towards refurbishing the terminal) and Standing Rock Airport in Fort Yates, North Dakota ($700,000 for a new general aviation terminal building).

In all, the grants will go towards funding 118 projects at 114 airports in 44 states and three territories, the DOT said. A full list of the awards is available on the Federal Aviation Administration’s website.

Under the Biden administration, the DOT has increasingly turned its focus to the air travel passenger experience as Americans have been increasingly vocal about frustrations with airlines and air travel overall in the aftermath of the pandemic.

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The DOT has proposed various new consumer protections with Buttigieg being notably vocal on the efforts, and President Joe Biden has called for limits on “junk fees” charged by airlines, hotels and others. The agency also issued a record fine to Southwest Airlines over a holiday season meltdown that left thousands of passengers stranded around the country.

Still, Buttigieg and the DOT have had to navigate a variety of challenges, including a decades-long air traffic controller shortage that has reached a critical inflection point, leading the FAA to issue a “slot waiver” for New York-area airports to try and reduce congestion.

Speaking with reports in Charlotte, Buttigieg said the agency’s overall focus was on making travel more reliable and navigable for everyone from frequent flyers to people who travel once a year — or less.

“What all this work is about is helping Americans go about their days, wherever they’re heading, for whatever reason, with less stress and fewer costs so that they can focus on what really matters.”

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