White House Aims To Spur Shift in Airport Investments

 - February 12, 2018, 12:04 PM
An infrastructure plan introduced by the White House would shift an emphasis from federal investment to state, local, and private funding for major projects, including for airports. (Photo: Foster CM Group)

The White House today unveiled an infrastructure plan that shifts an emphasis from federal investment to state, local, and private funding for major infrastructure projects, including for airports. The plan does not focus on air traffic control functions, but seeks to increase non-federal investment in and/or privatization of more U.S. airports. In addition, the plan seeks to curb the FAA’s activities involved in approval and management of certain airport projects.

A key to the plan is an infrastructure incentive program, backed by government grants, that would encourage state, local, and private investment. Such a program would apply to a range of infrastructure, from surface transportation and rail to waterways and airports. In addition, the plan seeks to widen availability of federal credit facilities and bond options, including for airports. Also on the funding front, the plan calls for streamlining and reducing the paperwork required for passenger facility charges (PFCs) at small hub airports.

The plan would enable the divestiture of certain federal infrastructure—including Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and Dulles International Airport—to state, local and/or private entities. Also, the plan would remove certain constraints on privatization of airports, including a limit on the number and size of airports that can participate in the current pilot program.

As for the FAA’s involvement, the plan states that the current review process for projects burdens the FAA and slows project delivery. Limiting the scope of the FAA’s approvals and oversight “would create more efficient FAA oversight of critical airfield infrastructure,” the White House said.

The infrastructure proposal is designed to stimulate investments, reduce regulatory barriers, and shift decision-making authority to state and local governments, the White House said.

While aviation groups were still reviewing the proposal today, the initial review from the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE), was positive, at least reagarding the PFC aspect. “For airports, the answer to building infrastructure is as easy as PFCs. Lifting the outdated federal cap on airport user fees would allow airports to utilize local dollars for investment immediately and to leverage those resources through bonds to further multiply their benefit into the future—100 percent consistent with what the President has outlined today,” AAAE president and CEO Todd Hauptli said. “If Washington is serious about airport infrastructure investment, it will move quickly to approve the bipartisan proposal on PFCs that is under consideration as part of the FY 2018 budget package.”