Airports around US receive $1 billion in federal infrastructure funds

Airports across the United States are set to undergo a major upgrade as nearly $1 billion in grants have been awarded by the federal government to 114 airports. This funding is part of the 2021 bipartisan infrastructure act, which aims to modernize the country’s air travel infrastructure over the next five years through the Airport Terminal Program.

The grants will be used for a range of projects aimed at improving the efficiency and passenger experience at airports. Some of the projects include the installation of faster and more efficient baggage systems, the expansion of security checkpoints, the construction of new terminal buildings, the refurbishment of air traffic control towers, and the enhancement of ground transportation areas.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg highlighted the importance of these projects during a press conference at Charlotte-Douglas International Airport. He emphasized that while some of the upgrades may not be glamorous, they are essential for ensuring a seamless travel experience. For example, the replacement of aging jet bridges can prevent delays and enhance passenger satisfaction.

Among the airports receiving funding, Washington Dulles International Airport will use $35 million to construct a new terminal building, while Salt Lake City International Airport will allocate $20 million for the expansion of Concourse B. Fort Lauderdale International Airport will receive the largest award of funds, which will be used to connect the airport’s terminals post-security, making it easier for passengers to navigate and potentially increasing connectivity.

In addition to improving the passenger experience, some of the projects will focus on making airports more sustainable and resilient to severe weather conditions caused by climate change. For example, Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport will receive $7 million to construct a new foundation for one of the airport’s major connector roads, which has been affected by flooding.

It is worth noting that the grants are not limited to large airports, as smaller airports such as Punta Gorda Airport in Florida and Standing Rock Airport in North Dakota will also receive funding for terminal refurbishment and a new general aviation terminal building, respectively.

Overall, the grants will fund a total of 118 projects at 114 airports across 44 states and three territories. The Department of Transportation (DOT) has prioritized improving the air travel passenger experience under the Biden administration, as public frustration with airlines and air travel has grown in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The DOT has proposed various consumer protections, including limits on additional fees charged by airlines and hotels. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has been vocal about these efforts. The agency has also issued a record fine to Southwest Airlines for a holiday season meltdown that left thousands of passengers stranded.

However, the DOT faces challenges such as the long-standing shortage of air traffic controllers, which has reached a critical point. To alleviate congestion, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued a “slot waiver” for New York-area airports.

Secretary Buttigieg emphasized that the agency’s focus is to make travel more reliable and navigable for all travelers, regardless of frequency. The goal is to reduce stress and costs so that individuals can focus on what really matters to them.

In conclusion, the grants awarded by the federal government to upgrade airports across the country mark a significant step towards modernizing the air travel infrastructure in the United States. These investments will not only improve the efficiency and sustainability of airports but also enhance the overall passenger experience. As the aviation industry continues to recover from the pandemic, these upgrades will play a crucial role in ensuring a seamless and enjoyable travel experience for all.

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