In a move to bolster the resilience of airports across the nation, the Airport Infrastructure Resilience Act of 2023 has been introduced in Congress.
This bill aims to establish an airport infrastructure resilience pilot program, paving the way for improved planning, design and construction that can withstand the challenges posed by changing conditions and natural disasters. About $300 million would be distributed annually from 2024 to 2028 under the program.
The pilot program would provide competitive grants to airport sponsors under the proposal. These grants will empower airports to embark on projects that enhance the resilience of their infrastructure. The focus will be on addressing current and long-term risks associated with changing conditions, such as sea-level rise and permafrost thaw, as well as weather events and natural disasters, including severe storms, flooding, drought, wildfire and more.
This pilot program is designed to support both new projects and improvements to existing infrastructure. It also recognizes the importance of investing in monitoring equipment and services to ensure effective risk management. Airport leaders can then proactively identify vulnerabilities and take preventive measures, making their facilities better prepared for future challenges.
Airports seeking to access these grants would submit detailed applications outlining the benefits their proposed projects will bring to both the airport and surrounding communities. This includes how the projects will address changing conditions, weather events and natural disasters.
The U.S. Secretary of Transportation would consider various factors to determine eligibility when awarding grants. An emphasis would be on projects leveraging natural infrastructure and nature-based solutions. Adherence to scientific and engineering standards, as well as environmental mitigation efforts, will be critical for considerations as well.
Once awarded funds, sponsors would provide periodic reports on the utilization of money to the secretary. This would ensure accountability and enables the program's continuous evaluation and improvement.
The bill also mandates at least 15% of the program's funds be allocated to regional airports. This ensures that airports across the nation, regardless of size, have equal opportunities to fortify their infrastructure. Small hub, non-hub airport, non-primary airport and reliever airports all fall under the definition of regional airport under the bill.
The bill requires the secretary to submit reports to relevant congressional committees. These reports will evaluate the effectiveness of the pilot program, providing details on funded projects, associated risks and recommendations for program administration improvements. The reports will also shed light on the disbursement period of grant funds and identify facilities that frequently require repair or reconstruction due to weather events and natural disasters.
You can access the full bill here