Luebbert says he appreciates the active role his state representatives and senators have taken, but still sees the reauthorization problem resting squarely on Congress’ shoulders.
“This inability of our federal government to support this modernization, at a time when the public is clamoring for it and airlines are going bankrupt everyday, fuel prices are crippling the industry — there’s something the federal government can do, and they’re actually making it worse.”
Luebbert suspects the economy may be in a recession, but that the air transportation industry is actually sliding into a depression. In the meantime, he’s staying conservative in planning.
“It’s a balancing act and it’s part of what is involved in public service when you’re in one of these lean times and transition modes,” he says.
“I’ve got to be careful what I do here with capital development, that I don’t encumber the cities with risk that we would have to cover if the federal government defaults.”
As a result, Luebbert says, he’s had to hold off on designing a new passenger terminal at Texarkana, which was to be in part AIP funded. He says state matching funds are already in place. “It’s kind of frustrating.”
He estimates the terminal will miss its scheduled opening in 2012. In the meantime, maintenance costs stay high. “I have to keep the existing passenger terminal alive, which costs extra money,” Luebbert notes. “It dates to 1959 and it really needs to be in the national historical register, not used as a passenger terminal.”
Kevin Meikle, architect and airports planning manager for the city of Fresno (CA) Department of Airports, says maintenance costs for delayed replacement pavement is adding up for Fresno Yosemite International Airport as well.
He says that according to FAA pavement management program gradings, wear and tear on two parallel taxis at the airport will need to be replaced within two years.
“So now we don’t have the money to design the work, which means that maybe next year we’ll get it,” Meikle says. “So the construction’s put off an extra year.”
One of the reasons the pavement needs to be replaced, Meikle notes, is the cost for maintaining old pavement becomes prohibitive after so much time has passed — a cost covered by the airport, not FAA.
“We spend more money maintaining it for that extra year or two,” Meikle says. “Eventually it will get replaced, but it’s more money that we spend to maintain it to keep it running in a safe operating condition before it finally does get replaced. It degrades the optimum efficiency.
“It’s a double whammy for medium or smaller airports like us that there is no revenue source other than the AIP grants and the matching funds that we’ve got.”
Meikle says his airport actually isn’t in a bad position as far as construction is concerned.
“We’re fortunate in that the money we will be getting will enable us to execute all of the construction projects we currently have on the board.
“We were able to really accommodate everything the FAA will do because we’ll be busy; we’ll be building things; we’ll do what we plan to do; we just won’t be able to do a lot of design work for the next group of projects.”
Projects underway at Fresno include reconstruction of some connecting taxiways and other airfield work. He notes that taxiwork completed last year came in under budget, allowing the airport to roll over some of that grant to help this year.
Meikle says the limited funding this year is water under the bridge.
“In our eyes, it’s money we’ll never get,” he comments. “It’s just everything is delayed a year or so, depending on the projects. We’ll never see it again.
“If everything goes back to normal next year…we’re not going to get extra discretionary because we got zero this year. That’s not going to happen.”
He also says that for one year, the funding isn’t too much of a problem. “If this was to happen two or three years in a row it would be a huge problem,” Meikle says.
On the other hand, some airports have been luckier. Chris Rodgers, executive director of Erie Municipal Airport Authority, says his airport has all the money needed to complete projects as planned.
“We’re fortunate to not have any impact from our reduction in partial AIP reauthorization,” he says. A runway extension project at Erie is going forward.
AIP Funding States prepare their airports for AIR-21 funding monies By By Jordanna Smida, Associate Editor October 2000 LONG BEACH, CA — While the state aviation officials...
Pavement Maintenance By John Boyce, Contributing Editor January/ February 2001 Tapping AIP dollars to keep up runways, ramps, taxiways Pilot program leads to previously...
The Bush budget plan fails to provide enough dollars to fund the industry's capital needs.
The Bush budget plan fails to provide enough dollars to fund the airports' capital needs.