Skift Take

Uncle Sam is giving to airports improvement grants an upgraded freebie, without matching requirements. Are airports going green because it's beneficial for the environment or beneficial to them?

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) awarded $766 million in 2021 airport improvement grants to several midsize and small airports across the country looking to improve safety and sustainability, the agency said in a press release.

The FAA said it would be implementing the airport rescue grants quickly to aid in the economic recovery of the nation’s airports. The grant will pay for projects at 279 airports in 44 states plus the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and Guam.

Unlike in past years when airports have been responsible for providing a local match for funds received, these grants will come with no strings attached.

“These grants will improve safety, sustainability and accessibility at airports across our country,” said FAA Administrator Steve Dickson.

And thanks to nearly $100 million provided by President Biden’s American Rescue Plan, this round of airport grant recipients will be fully funded by the government, the FAA said.

The American Rescue Plan’s airport rescue grants will apply to all airports receiving airport improvement grants in 2021, waiving the need for airports affected by the pandemic to pay a local match.

With a focus on the environment, going green was pushed to the forefront in the travel industry throughout the coronavirus pandemic. This fifth round of airport improvement project grants this year includes goals to increase access for rural, remote communities, accessibility for individuals with disabilities, and runway improvements.

For instance, the FAA awarded $10.6 million in airport improvement grants to the Louisville, Kentucky airport and $4.8 million to Montana’s Great Falls International airport to improve sustainability.

With this funding, the Louisville Muhammed Ali International airport will improve energy efficiency by replacing three boilers with a geothermal system in the terminal to cool and heat the building. The FAA said that the geothermal system would significantly reduce pollutants, such as ozone, carbon monoxide, and particulate matter associated with natural gas burning.

Alaska’s Atqasuk Edward Burnell Sr. Memorial Airport will improve rural accessibility with its $20.7 million grant by repairing the gravel pavement in the runway, taxiway to the parking area, the aircraft parking area, and other airport improvements.

These improvements in Alaska will extend the life of the airport infrastructure and enhance airport operations’ safety for the remote community solely dependent on aviation for the transportation of people, goods, and critical services, the FAA said.

Airports in Charleston, S.C., and Fort Wayne, Indiana. received grants to improve accessibility for individuals with disabilities. The Wilmington, N.C. airport received $16.1 million to expand its terminal with an expanded checkpoint screening area, new restaurants, retail spaces, additional seating areas and meet the Americans with Disabilities Act accessibility requirements. 

Airports receiving grants to increase safety and and expand capacity include New York’s Adirondack and Long Island airports, Norfolk, Virginia, Alexandria, Louisiana, and Baltimore Washington International airport. These airport projects will enhance runways and taxiways.

Signed into law by the president in March, the American Rescue Plan includes $8 billion in Covid-19 economic aid for eligible airports awarded through the Airport Rescue Grants administered by the FAA. It provides funding for primary commercial airports to provide relief for eligible airport concessionaires from minimum annual guarantees and rent.


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Tags: aci, airports, faa

Photo credit: The Federal Aviation Administration is giving U.S. airports millions in grants to improve sustainability and revamp runways. Nick Harris / Flickr

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