Airports: US eyes infrastructure investment surge from Trump Administration

Ed Zwirn, New York – IHS Jane’s Airport Review
13 December 2016

Elaine Chao has been nominated by President-Elect Donald Trump to serve as secretary of transportation.

Elaine Chao has been nominated by President-Elect Donald Trump to serve as secretary of transportation.

The victory of Donald Trump in the US presidential election has raised hopes of federal support for airport improvements in the country.

Trump, who takes office on 20 January 2017, made the poor condition of US infrastructure a talking point in his successful campaign, at times characterising airports in the country as “third-world facilities”.

In his victory speech on 9 November, Trump pledged to invest billions of dollars in transport infrastructure. “We are going to… rebuild our highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools, hospitals. We’re going to rebuild our infrastructure, which will become, by the way, second to none. And we will put millions of our people to work as we rebuild it.”

Furthermore, his subsequent nomination of Elaine Chao (deputy transport secretary in the George H. W. Bush Administration) as secretary of transportation generated a positive response from airport industry organisations.

Airports Council International – North America (ACI-NA) president and CEO Kevin M Burke, for example, congratulated Trump and members of the Republican-controlled 115th Congress, saying he appreciated “that improving infrastructure should be a top priority for the United States. A modernised infrastructure promotes economic growth and secures our position as leaders in the global marketplace”.

To illustrate the need for added investment, the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) calculates that US airports have a collective funding requirement of USD75.7 billion over the next five years, in order to complete essential projects.

To fund these programmes, airports are supposed to rely on a Passenger Facility Charge (PFC), which has been capped by Congress at USD4.50 per ticket since 2000. The Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) Airport Improvement Program (AIP), a USD3.3 billion discretionary fund through which the federal government funds capital projects at US airports, is in turn funded by fuel taxes and the PFC.

According to the AAAE, there is a major funding gap of more than USD3 billion per year.

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