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Airport Upgrades Take Flight With Airport Terminals Program

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Airports around the country are set to get a facelift. The Airport Terminals Program is funding upgrades as part of a $5 billion effort to enhance airport infrastructure nationwide. It is a five-year program, with the first round — just under $1 billion — made available in 2022, per an announcement from the White House. 

Energy efficiency was touted as a major point of emphasis for the first round of grants, along with capacity increases and accessibility improvements for those with disabilities. Long-term economic benefits as a result of increased international traffic are also expected, per the White House statement. 

The purposes of the grants — given to 85 airports — vary a bit. However, the vast majority of recipients are using the funding for some form of sustainability, accessibility, and capacity improvements for terminals. A little over half will be addressing a purported lack of access to nearby historically disadvantaged communities and linking to oft-neglected rural airports. 

“Americans deserve modern airports that meet the needs of their families and growing passenger demand,” Pete Buttigieg, transportation secretary, said in the 2022 announcement. “Funded through [the] Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, today’s grants will improve airport terminals while also creating good jobs in communities across the country.”

Photo Courtesy Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities

Another $1 billion was announced in February this year, going to 99 airports nationwide. In a press release, the FAA said this phase of funding helps to “meet the growing demand for air travel and invests in key areas to help get travelers in and out of airports more quickly and improve the passenger experience by investing in new baggage systems, larger security checkpoints and improved ground transportation.”

The announcement for the third round of funding went live in September 2023, with the closing application date in October. At the time of publication, the recipients haven’t been announced. 

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), the latest $1 billion was made available to fund projects to “improve the passenger experience at airports in communities of all sizes” for the 2024 fiscal year.

These upgrades will strive “to make it faster and easier to check bags, get through security, and find your gate, all while creating jobs and supporting local economies.”

The funding is welcome news to many within the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the agency that has historically overseen these types of upgrade projects. In addition, it got $5 billion to update air traffic control facilities and $15 billion for airport infrastructure.

“The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is a critical investment not only in our nation’s infrastructure but an investment in the future of our country’s workforce,” A. Bradley Mims, who works as deputy administrator for the FAA, said in a statement. ​​“The work that goes into build safer, more accessible, and sustainable terminals will provide opportunities for people across the nation.”

Photo Courtesy Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities

Gaining access to this funding wasn’t a walk in the park. The first round received an applicant total that surpassed $14 billion in funding dollars requested, far north of the $5 billion allotted for the entirety of the program’s duration. According to a February news release, the “vast majority of those projects are under construction.” 

Alaskan lawmakers and international travelers rejoiced in August 2022 following news of increased funding for the Ted Stevens Airport. The grant was announced by Alaskan Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, who both expressed gratitude over the recognition of Ted Stevens as a critical access point to the vast majority of nations doing significant business with the United States. 

Sen. Sullivan remarked on what he saw as an ideal pairing of efficient spending with the untapped regional potential of an Anchorage-based airport.“Less than nine hours away from 95 percent of the industrialized world, the airport is of great strategic importance,” he said in a statement. “I’m pleased to see these funds awarded to the airport and look forward to additional announcements on allotted airport infrastructure funds.”

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