U.S. Airports to Receive Nearly $3.5 billion from FAA Money to Aid Already Sizable CARES Act Funding
By L.C. Leach III
Even with a vaccine for coronavirus still pending, U.S. airports are getting a shot in the arm – thanks to four major recent funding programs from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
All funding, issued as airport safety and infrastructure grants, total approximately $3.46 billion and will come from the FAA’s Airport Improvement Program (AIP): $1.187 billion announced in April; another $800 million announced in June; $273 million announced in late July; and $1.2 billion announced on Sept. 1.
Monies from the three funds will be distributed differently, but portions will go to airports in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, plus the U.S.-related territories of Guam, American Samoa, Puerto Rico, Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia, Northern Mariana Islands and the Marshall Islands.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao said the investments represent a “continued commitment to the safety and efficiency of our nation’s airports for the traveling public.”
The grant money will be used in numerous ways, such as to rehabilitate taxiways, install airfield beacons and guidance signs, construct new terminal buildings, reconstruct runway lighting and build new engineered material arresting systems to safely stop airplanes that overshoot runways.
In South Carolina, the AIP money is expected to go to 33 airports, including:
• Greenville-Spartanburg Airport – $4.94 million
• Columbia Metropolitan – $2.74 million
• Myrtle Beach International – $3.66 million
• Florence Regional – $110,063
• Donaldson Field, Greenville $3.55 million in April; and another $1.04 million awarded in September
• Greenville Downtown Airport, near North Pleasantburg Road – $8.35 million
“This money will be of tremendous benefit to our airport since they will pay for 100 percent of the total cost of the improvements,” said Joe Frasher, director of Greenville Downtown Airport. “Our revenue is down as a result of the coronavirus and is not expected to recover for several years.”
In addition, the state of South Carolina received an airport systems planning grant for $277, 778 that will impact one-third of the state’s 58 publicly owned public-use airports.
“At this point, we don’t know which of those 58 will benefit first from this particular FAA funding grant,” said James Stephens, executive director of the S.C. State Aeronautics Commission. “But at some point, all 58 will benefit.”
The AIP funding grants will supplement the federal government’s $10 billion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act Airport Grant Program, which was announced in mid-April.
The CARES Act will benefit thousands of U.S. airports in all 50 states, plus the territories of Guam, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, U.S. Virgin Islands, Northern Mariana Islands and the Marshall Islands.
In South Carolina, the CARES Act grants will go to 53 airports, including GSP ($25.8 million), Oconee County Regional ($69,000), Columbia Metropolitan ($8.85 million), Hilton Head Airport ($1.21 million), Greenville Downtown Airport ($157,000) and Donaldson Field.
And Frasher added that money from both CARES and FAA funding will be used to install engineered material arresting systems at both ends of the Greenville Downtown Airport’s primary runway and to “rehabilitate and straighten Taxiway B.”
“These grants will be of tremendous benefit to our airport since they will pay for 100 percent of the total cost of the improvements,” he said. “Our revenue is down as a result of the coronavirus and is not expected to recover for several years.”