White House Budget A First Step To Improving Funding for Airports

Airports Council International-North America (ACI-NA)  issued the following statement in response to President Barack Obama’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2015:

“We’re pleased to see that President Obama’s budget priorities for transportation include important airport priorities like a long-overdue increase in the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) for airports and a critical increase in staffing at Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facilities,”  said ACI-NA President and CEO Kevin M. Burke.  “Allowing airports the flexibility to implement a modest increase in the maximum PFCs they would be able to charge is an important first step in getting investment in our nation’s airport infrastructure back on track with the rest of the world.  Likewise, giving CBP the staff and technology it needs to screen arriving international air travelers in a timely manner will provide a more welcoming experience to those arriving in America.”

Although the White House’s F.Y. 2015 budget proposal calls for increasing the PFC to $8.00 per enplanement, it also would cut funding for the Airport Improvement Program (AIP), which is a key source of capital improvement and infrastructure funding for smaller regional airports.  “We’re disappointed that this proposed increase in the PFC appears to be at the expense of AIP,” continued Burke.  “The cut in AIP’s overall funding ultimately would mean that the smaller airports that depend on this funding for necessary capital improvement projects will have less support.”

The proposed budget also calls for 2,000 new CBP officers and procurement of new technology and equipment to make ports of entry more efficient in processing arriving passengers and cargo.  “ACI-NA long has advocated that CBP receive the proper resources it needs to accommodate the millions of arriving international air travelers each year,” said Burke.  “We’re pleased that the White House recognizes this correlation in its budget proposal, and this is particularly welcome news for our busiest international airports.”

ACI-NA’s most recent Capital Needs Study found that U.S. airports have more than $71 billion in total projects considered essential for completion by 2017, and the number of domestic passengers alone is expected to surpass 1 billion enplanements in the next 15 years.  “ACI-NA looks forward to working with both the White House and Congress on enacting an increase in the PFC for all airports that rely on this source of funding, while also safeguarding AIP support levels.  Pitting large hubs against smaller, regional airports for limited resources is not a productive long-term solution for ensuring the global competitiveness of American airports.”

Highlights from the Obama Administration's proposed budget include the following:

Agency: Transportation

Discretionary spending: $14 billion

Percentage change from 2014: 2.2 percentage increase.

Highlights: The proposal includes $302 billion over the next four years for road, bridge, rail and transit programs. Transit and passenger rail spending would jump from $12.3 billion to $22.3. Current population trends indicate much of the growth will take place in close-in suburban and rural areas, making transit improvements critical to being able to move people around efficiently, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx told reporters. Improving passenger train service between cities less than 500 miles apart also seen as an alternative to air travel, which is forecast to grow substantially in coming decades. There's also $10 billion spread over four years aimed at eliminating freight transportation bottlenecks.

The proposal would also sharply boost spending on the Next Generation Air Transportation System program to revamp the nation's air traffic control system, moving from the current radar-based system to one based on GPS technology. The program would get an extra $186 million, raising total the total "NextGen" budget for the federal fiscal year beginning on Oct. 1 to about $1 billion. The program is aimed at increasing the capacity and efficiency of the nation's air traffic system to accommodate growth in air travel in the coming decades. But airlines and other users of the system have complained that after 10 years of work, the program so far has produced only modest benefits. The administration says the extra funding will provide the Federal Aviation Administration — which is part of the Department of Transportation — with the "flexibility to aggressively develop and deploy more time and fuel saving capabilities while also addressing serious maintenance backlogs" in existing air traffic control facilities and equipment.

Also included in the proposal is $40 million to improve the safety of crude oil shipments by rail and truck. The money would be used to ramp up inspections, as well as conduct research and testing. The volume of crude oil being shipped by rail has soared in recent years, largely as a result of the fracking boom in North Dakota. A train derailment and fire in Canada last summer that killed 47 people, as well as derailments in North Dakota and Alabama that led to intense fires, have heightened safety concerns.