FAA preps latest round of grants for airport terminal projects

The Federal Aviation Authority expects to release its latest airport terminal grant opportunity as soon as next week.

The Airport Terminal Program offers up $1.2 billion in fiscal 2024 for projects that address the aging infrastructure of the nation’s airports.

It’s a popular and competitive program that’s now in its third year of funding under the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, said FAA manager Robin Hunt during a press call Thursday.

A check-in area at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.
The Dallas-Fort Worth Airport international terminal.

Kevin Brown

U.S. airports collectively face $151 billion of capital needs over the next five years, according to the Airports Council International’s 2023 U.S. Airport Infrastructure Needs Report. For 2023 through 2027, terminal building projects represent 43% of the total infrastructure development, followed by airfield projects at 27% of costs and ground access projects that represent 11%, the report said.

The council estimates that the nation’s airports will see a 158% increase in passenger traffic by 2040 compared to 2019 levels.

The U.S. is now wrapping up what’s proved to be its busiest air travel period on record, said Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg Friday, when he appeared at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport to tout airline safety and efficiency during the busy Labor Day travel weekend.

The government invested “hundreds of millions of dollars” in 2021 and 2022 into airfield projects to address a disturbing rise in plane close calls on runways, Buttigieg said.

Unlike the traditional federal funding of airfield projects, the Airport Terminal Program supports renovation of aging infrastructure inside the airports or the control towers.

The IIJA provided $5 billion for the program, allocated roughly as $1 billion annually over five years. The program in fiscal 2022 received more than $14 billion in requests for $1 billion and in fiscal 2023 saw $10 billion of requests, according to Hunt. The FAA ended up selecting 195 airports last year, she said.

“I’m happy to report that by the end of this month the vast majority of those projects are … well along in the process, so that’s been a fabulous success,” she said.

The federal cost share of the grants is 80% for large and medium hub airports and 95% for the remainder of airports.

The new Notice of Funding Opportunity will prioritize projects that can be started by around June 2024, Hunt said. “We try to focus on our projects on things that are really ready, because we have additional opportunities in 2025 and 2026,” she said.

Hunt advised airports to get project bids early to help mitigate rising costs.

“Everybody has faced challenges recently with the bidding environment,” she said, noting some entities are getting only high bids or not receiving any at all, especially in regions where airports are competing with other public entities to build major infrastructure projects.

Under the law, 55% of the funding goes to large hub airports, 15% to medium hub airports, 20% to small hubs and 10% to non-hub or nonprimary facilities.

Once it’s posted, the NOFO will remain open for 30 days.

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