Airports, Aviation Reauthorization Might Fly
Shafroth, Frank, Nation's Cities Weekly
Although the prospects for a temporary extension of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) airport and airways reauthorization have been in a holding pattern, the Senate last week passed a two month extension until the end of May. The House passed and sent a bill to the Senate that would extend FAA authority until September last month. FAA authority is operating on a temporary extension that is to expire on March 31st and a lapse in authority means that funding for aviation programs like the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) would come to a halt.
House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bud Shuster (R-Pa.) meanwhile, not content to act on a temporary extension, secured subcommittee and full committee action on his NLC-supported bill, HR 1000, the Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century (AIR-21) this month. AIR 21 will help large and small cities alike to address the $3 billion infrastructure gap that the Government Accounting Office cites to meet safety and security needs to prepare airports for the 21st century. The bill would dramatically increase Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funding from nearly $2 billion a year to $5 billion a year to help build runways and taxiways, and provide for noise abatement. AIP funds are allocated to airport authorities who then determine exactly how funds are spent, within criteria set by law and the FAA. Additionally, the bill would incorporate additional funding for air traffic control equipment, Aviation Systems Accelerated Priority (ASAP) for high priority projects, funding for small airports to help meet a new FAA safety certification program.
The bill would also increase competition by allowing local governments to increase passenger facility charges (PFC) from $3 to $6. Airports that participate in the PFC program return 50 percent of their AIP funds to the AIP program to be distributed to small airports. Additionally, the bill would include projects to enhance air service to small and medium sized communities at an increased level. This program was increased by $5 million, as a result of NLC members' lobbying efforts with their Congressional delegations while attending the Congressional City Conference. …