The national air transportation system is an essential component of interstate travel, commerce and the national defense, generating substantial benefits to the public. Our national airport system must be improved and expanded. Providing adequate air service for all Americans will require retaining and upgrading existing airports and building new airports. Increased attention and resources must also be devoted to improving the landside, particularly the highway, rail, and transit access to airports is necessary to accommodate increased passenger and cargo demand. Ensuring a safe and efficient U.S. airport system should be a top national priority. This requires careful long-range planning and adequate funds to support a coordinated airport development program. Meeting these challenges should be a shared responsibility of all levels of government.
Issues and Policies
Airport and Airways Trust Fund
- The Airport and Airways Trust Fund is a dedicated funding source – supported by aviation users – to pay for airport and airway improvements.
- This trust fund should be made permanent and removed from the Unified Federal Budget.
- All interest earned on the trust fund balance should be considered dedicated funding for airport/airway improvements.
- The trust fund revenues should be spent in a timely manner to ensure that the balance in the fund is no larger than is necessary to meet cash-flow obligations.
- Trust fund revenue should not be used to pay for FAA operational expenses until all clearly identified airport and airways capital needs have been met.
Level of Funding
ARTBA believes that at least a $5 billion annual federal investment is necessary to meet eligible needs identified in the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems (NPIAS), to acquire land right-of-way for future airports, and to build the more than a dozen major, new commercial airports that FAA suggests are necessary to meet future system demand. We support the imposition of federal and non-federal user fees on air travel to finance infrastructure capital improvements to meet the growing needs of our nation’s aviation system. Such fees should not be used for non-aviation related purposes.
Establishment of Federal Airport Improvement Revolving Loan Account Program
ARTBA recommends that currently uncommitted funds in the Airport and Airways Trust Fund be used to provide seed money for the establishment of a “Federal Airport Improvement Revolving Loan Account Program.” This account, which should be established outside of the Unified Federal Budget, could be leveraged by state and local governments and the private sector to secure low-interest loans for land acquisition and airport improvements not funded through the AIP. Special incentives would be given to encourage use of these loans for the acquisition of land right of way for future airports and (off-site highway rail, and transit airport access improvements) other sources of funds for highways.
Airport Improvement Program
A strong, adequately funded federal AIP is essential to meeting the nation’s airport/airways needs. It should be made permanent and supported through the application of federal/state/local matching funds. The AIP should be structured to meet airport capital needs both airside and landside. This would include improvements to the terminal area, access routes, and improved air traffic control and navigation facilities. Airside and landside pavement projects should be eligible for federal 4-R (rehabilitation, reconstruction, resurfacing and restoration) funding similar to that found in the federal highway program. Since this program is user-financed through the Airport and Airways Trust Fund, it should be exempt from “balanced budget” calculations.
Joint Use and Conversion of Military Airfields
Nearly 75 military airports have been identified by the FAA for joint use by commercial and military aircraft. Congress has also passed legislation mandating that the U.S. Department of Defense cooperate with the FAA in developing joint use airports. DOD should accelerate their work in this area. DOD has also identified a number of military airbases that will be closed due to spending reductions. Congress should ensure that these aviation facilities are converted to publicly accessible airports to help relieve system congestion.
National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems
The NPIAS prepared by the FAA is crucial to the identification of current and future aviation capital needs. It should be updated in a timely manner. In preparing this document, the FAA should work closely with state and local government and the private sector to ensure that a comprehensive and coordinated intermodal approach to airport planning is taken.
We encourage actions which help achieve noise compatibility between airports and their environs. Effective noise abatement can only be achieved through the coordinated efforts of aircraft manufacturers and operators, airport sponsors, airport neighbors and federal, state and local government. ARTBA fully supports Title I of the Noise Abatement and Aviation Safety Act of 1979, which allows grants from the Airport and Airways Trust Fund to airport sponsors for noise abatement planning and land-use compatibility. All government entities that are charged with land use planning should coordinate their efforts so that their respective objectives, plans, policies, criteria and programs are mutually supportive of compatible airport land use.
Long-Term Advance Land Acquisition
In order to meet future capacity needs and minimize future environmental impacts, the federal government should provide tax incentives to help airport sponsors
- develop existing public- and privately owned general aviation and/or reliever airports;
- acquire sites for new and replacement airports; and
- acquire property directly adjacent to present airport facilities for future expansion.
ARTBA encourages the FAA to continue, in conjunction with national and state aviation agencies and other interested entities, to closely monitor and regulate the location of tall towers that would negatively impact airport operations and possible future expansion.
Heliport and Vertiports
ARTBA encourages the FAA to accelerate the promotion, development and funding for heliports and vertiports as part of the NPIAS.
Uniform Administrative Policies and Procedures
ARTBA encourages the development and implementation of uniform administrative policies and procedures for all FAA offices to foster improved communication and understanding with its public/private clients.
Changed Condition Clause
ARTBA recommends that standardized contract clauses be included in all FAA construction contracts. These should provide for the equitable adjustment of contract terms under the following conditions:
- where actual site conditions differ from those that were indicated in the contract;
- where work has been suspended by order of the contracting agency (except when the suspension of work was caused by the fault of the contractor or by weather or Act of God; and
- where there are significant changes in the character of the work that was specified in the contract.
To ensure that all possible sources of airport development financing are considered to meet identified capital needs, ARTBA believes that public/private ventures in airport development should be fully explored on a case-by-case basis and implemented when appropriate.