Local airports need millions in infrastructure funding

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Local airports need millions in infrastructure funding

Airports across the U.S. need to invest billions of dollars on “much-needed” infrastructure projects in the next five years, including local hubs in Dayton, Cincinnati and Columbus.

It’s estimated that airports will need nearly $100 billion in the next five years to accommodate passenger and cargo growth and to rehabilitate aging facilities, according to a new report just released from the Airports Council International - North America.

“America’s airports have significant infrastructure needs that must be addressed in order to remain competitive in the global aviation system and support our economy,” said Kevin Burke, president and CEO of the ACI-NA. “As such, airports stand ready to work with the Trump administration and Congress to address airport needs in the most cost effective and sustainable way possible.”

Locally, small and mid-sized airports like Dayton International rely on grants and federal funding to help with their aging infrastructure projects. Terry Slaybaugh, Dayton’s aviation director, said the Dayton facility will need nearly $150 million for infrastructure improvements.

The needed improvements vary by size of airport and how old each airport is across the nation. About $38 billion is needed for terminal building improvements, $19 billion for airfield capacity and standardization and another $15 billion for reconstruction projects, among other expenses. The need for these improvements have increased by 32 percent in the past two years, according to the report.

Slaybaugh, who is on the board of the ACI-NA, said that there’s three ways the airport funds improvement projects. Nationwide, airports generate about $10 billion to fund infrastructure project. That leaves airports more than $10 billion short when investing in local airport infrastructure.

At the Dayton airport, funding for improvements are taken mainly from the airport improvement program, passenger facility charges and capital contributions. Some of the proposed plans include a sanitary sewer improvement project for $8 million, $13 million to revamp parking at the airport and $22 million on terminal structure rebuilding projects.

“Airports have been neglected now for a number of decades and it’s getting to the point where if we don’t address some of these issues, then we’re going to lose the capacity we have in the aviation system,” Slaybaugh said.

The need for infrastructure improvements come as airports age and air travel becomes increasingly important to a global economy. Approximately 63 percent of the development at airports is intended to accommodate growth in passenger and cargo activity, according to the report.

There has been a shift in the type of airports used, with carriers focusing their business in larger hub cities. Slaybaugh said Dayton has lost 300,000 emplanements, or passengers flying, since 2012. The report, which categorized Dayton as a small airport, found DAY’s emplanement decreased from 1.12 million emplanements in 2014 to 1.04 million in 2015.

John Glenn Columbus International Airport, categorized as a medium airport in the report, saw a slight increase in passengers in 2015 — up to 3.3 million from 3.1 million in 2014. Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport also saw an increase from 2.9 million in 2014 to 3.1 million enplanements in 2015.

Larger airports like CVG have seen success with passenger growth and attracting cargo business to the area. Retail giant Amazon chose the airport for its next air cargo hub, a $1.49 billion investment that will create 2,700 new jobs. The hub was chosen over Wilmington Air Park in Clinton County, disappointing officials in Ohio. CVG also gained major passengers, when Southwest announced earlier this year that it was pulling its services from Dayton in June and adding services to the Cincinnati airport.

With this shift in carrier preference, it’s increasingly important for small and mid-sized hubs to find alternative ways to pay for facility improvements. According to the report, the funding needs at airports are significantly higher than the funding available through grants, passenger facility charges revenue and airport income.

Slaybaugh said airport officials are urging Congress to lift the cap on passenger facility charges, which allows airports controlled by public agencies to collect $4.50 for every enplaned passenger. Airports use those fees for projects that enhance safety, security or reduce noise. If the cap is lifted, individual airports could propose different fee amounts to the Federal Aviation Administration.

“Bottom line, the airports need to be included in the conversation about aging infrastructure and the improvements we can make at airports,” he said.

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