Biden administration announces $1B to 85 airports to upgrade terminals

The Hill, by Alex Gangitano

July 7, 2022

The Biden administration will grant nearly $1 billion to 85 airports across the country to improve terminals, the White House announced on Thursday.

The funding comes from the 2021 bipartisan infrastructure law, which included $5 billion overall for terminal projects as part of $20 billion in funding for airport infrastructure.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told reporters he thinks the funding could help alleviate the problems people are facing in U.S. airports. He said it could help the flow at airports and the passenger experience, including through projects like upgrades to baggage handling or updating ticket counters.

The announcement comes as airlines have struggled to meet post-pandemic passenger demand and amid an uptick in canceled and delayed flights.

The $1 billion investment is the first of a five-year program, and to qualify for a grant, airports had to agree to start construction for their projects at the end of this fiscal year or the beginning of the next fiscal year.

“When our airports are falling short, when they’re overly crowded, when they’re not accessible, everybody feels it,” Mitch Landrieu, the White House senior adviser tasked with coordinating the infrastructure law’s implementation, told reporters.

He noted that the government typically does not invest in airport terminals, which historically receive investment from local airport owners and airlines. But Landrieu and Buttigieg argued the need for federal funds was evident.

“It is very natural for public funds to go to publicly important resources and pieces of infrastructure, and we think that includes airport terminals, and well-chosen projects can unlock economic opportunity both directly in terms of the construction project opportunities and more generally in terms of economic growth,” Buttigieg said.

Seventy grants will go to expand terminal capacity, 76 grants will go to increase terminal sustainability, 47 grants will go to improving access for historically disadvantaged and rural communities, 73 grants will go to provide access to individuals with disabilities, and two will go to build new air traffic control towers.

At the Orlando airport, $50 million will be invested to construct new gates and provide facilities compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act; at the Pittsburgh airport, $20 million will be invested to build a new terminal with improved security screening and baggage inspection systems; and at the Seattle-Tacoma airport, $10 million will go to restroom modernization.

Other airport investments include $5 million to Chattanooga, Tenn., for a terminal expansion project with new gates, $760,000 to Maine’s Dexter Regional Airport to replace a half-century old terminal and $35 million to Dallas-Fort Worth to construct a zero-carbon electrical central utility plant that provides clean energy to the airport.