LOCALIZE IT: How $1B in grants will impact US airports

LOCALIZE IT: How $1B in grants will impact US airports
EDITORS/NEWS DIRECTORS:

EDITORS/NEWS DIRECTORS:

The Biden administration is giving nearly $1 billion to 85 airports across the U.S. to expand and upgrade terminals and other facilities.

The grants announced Thursday are the first installment of $5 billion for airport projects that were included in an infrastructure bill that Congress approved and President Joe Biden signed last November.

The largest grants include $60 million to improve the terminal and replace the bag-handling system at Denver International Airport, $50 million apiece for Boston’s Logan Airport and Orlando International Airport in Florida, $49.6 million for Dulles Airport outside Washington, D.C., to build a new concourse, and $20 million for Pittsburgh International Airport to build a new terminal next to the old one. The main airports in Detroit and Philadelphia will get more than $20 million each to renovate their restrooms.

The Federal Aviation Administration has an interactive graphic that shows which airports are getting the money. Hover over the code for your airport to get the amount and a description of the funded project. You can also view a list of grant winners here.

Some tips on localizing the story:

QUESTIONS TO ASK

— Talk to officials at airports receiving upgrades about how the projects will address travel safety and efficiency. How long will the construction take? How will it affect current airport operations?

— Particularly at smaller airports, is the project important for attracting new air service to your community?

— Is the money enough? Particularly at big airports, officials say the grants won’t cover the full cost of expensive projects.

— Does the airport have enough other funding to complete the job? Most airports are allowed to levy “passenger facility charges,” and they get revenue from landing fees, parking, concessions and other sources.

— Go to the airport and talk to travelers about the planned upgrades. Do passengers think the work is needed, or is it a waste of taxpayer money? Some airports are getting money to renovate restrooms or make areas of the terminal more accessible. How bad are the facilities now?

— While you’re at the airport, it’s a good time to see how busy it is, and whether airlines and security checkpoints are efficient or backed up. If yours is a general-aviation airport, ask aircraft owners how the airport is doing at meeting their needs.

OTHER RESOURCES

Statistics about your airport can be found here. For all but the biggest airports, click on “Show all airports (by state).” One drawback: The reports run a few months behind.

If your airport is operated by a government entity like a city or county, that government has much more information that should be a matter of public record.

The Transportation Department’s monthly air travel consumer reports have the number of arrivals and departures for all airports that have airline service, and the percentage of flights that were late. The reports can be found here. You’ll have to scroll down to the section on airports.

ADDITIONAL BACKGROUND

The grants come as U.S. air travel reverts to pre-pandemic conditions and airlines struggle to keep up with the surging demand.

An average of 2.33 million passengers passed through security checkpoints at domestic airports during the seven days ending July 1. That was close to the seven-day average of roughly 2.38 million passengers during the same 2019 period, according to the Transportation Security Administration.

Airlines have experienced staffing shortages and an assortment of other issues that have resulted in recurring waves of exasperating flight delays and cancellations that have been transforming some vacations into nightmarish ordeals.

Many airlines, including Delta, Southwest and JetBlue, have responded by curtailing summer schedules to reduce the inconveniences — and backlash — caused by flight delays and cancellations They are using larger planes on average to carry more passengers while they scramble to hire and train more pilots.

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Localize It is an occasional feature produced by The Associated Press for its customers’ use. Questions can be directed to Katie Oyan at koyan@ap.org.

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