FAA Airport Improvement Program (AIP)
$527.8 Million in Airport Infrastructure Grants
On the eve of President Trump’s big infrastructure announcement (06.05.2017), U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao announced that the Federal Aviation Administration will award $527.8 million in airport infrastructure grants to 584 airports across the United States as part of the FAA’s Airport Improvement Program.
The aviation think tanks have been advocating that the private sector be given greater participation in the funding of airport development and some have even suggested that the AIP Trust Fund be reduced. By lowering the federal contributions, the fiscal hawks assert that the taxes needed to provide this cash would be reduced, and that some communities (all?) would receive fewer AIP dollars.
You may remember that 2016 was an election year and the race between the two candidates was close and highly contested. Not surprisingly, Sec. Foxx waited until November 4, 2016 to announce that more than $90 million in Federal Aviation Administration grants to six airports in Alabama, Missouri, North Dakota, Oregon, Tennessee, and Wyoming for airport runway, taxiway, and apron projects.
These national pronouncements cascade down to Senators and Representative releases telling their constituents that the money is coming which someone not careful in his/her reading might think that these elected officials were somehow responsible for the AIP allocation.
It may have just been a coincidence. The fact that Secretary Chao’s message is a good six months earlier than Secretary Foxx’s (it is not easy to rush the paperwork that must be completed before the AIP capital can be distributed) sounds like the date was intentionally timed. What is curious is that some of the airports receiving this federal assistance may lose that status under the Trump Administration proposal; so, getting an allocation now may not affect their views of the new bill. However, this executive action might signal that the new infrastructure legislation may also include a big bonus for airport management—the end to some or all of the Grant Assurances which limit their economic discretion.
Tea leave reading is an Inside the Beltway sport. Maybe tomorrow, at the Rose Garden ceremony, the Secretary’s testimony at the House T&I committee hearing or the release of an Administration bill may clear up the significance of this $527.8 M press release.