by Mark Albert
WASHINGTON (TVR) – Executives from a diverse group of America’s airports told Congress on Wednesday they are starving for cash, imperiling the efficiency of country’s air network and leading to a “massive investment challenge.”
“None of us got to declare bankruptcy” unlike the airlines, testified Christina Cassotis, who oversees the Allegheny County Airport Authority, which operates Pittsburgh’s airport. Built to handle 32 million passengers a year, PIT now handles just eight million, a drop of 75%, she said.
“We need to modernize and upgrade costly inefficient, oversized, and out of date facilities – none of which is a priority in the current funding rules,” Cassotis told lawmakers on the House Subcommittee on Aviation.
US airports received a ‘D’ grade from the American Society of Civil Engineers in its most recent quadrennial scorecard. At that time, the ASCE predicted the investment for US aviation by 2020 would need to be $3.6 trillion. The FAA estimated the cost to the economy of airport congestion and delays in 2012 was nearly $22 billion and will jump to an estimated $34 billion by 2020. The ASCE will issue a new aviation grade March 9.
During Tuesday night’s address to a joint session of Congress, Pres. Trump received a standing ovation from most lawmakers when he called for a $1 trillion investment into US infrastructure.
“Crumbling infrastructure will be replaced with new roads, bridges, tunnels, airports, and railways gleaming across our very, very beautiful land,” Trump vowed.
The Republican president, in his second month in office, said “the time has come for a new program of national rebuilding.”
Lawmakers of both parties indicated a need to invest more in the country’s aviation infrastructure, with the top Democrat on the subcommittee, Rep. Rick Larsen (WA), telling the five airport executives testifying Wednesday that “Congress has fallen short” in providing adequate funding.
The nation’s largest airports also need an influx of cash but, unlike medium-sized airports, that’s due to soaring passenger traffic, Sean Donohue, CEO of the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW), told the hearing.
Donahue estimated airports would need $100 billion in the “next four to five years” and that the backlog of infrastructure needs “are not cosmetic projects but the necessary developments needed to keep up.”
The hearing was part of the reauthorization process for the Federal Aviation Administration.
More than 800 million people fly through one of the country’s 509 commercial airport each year, the committee said in a statement. That is estimated to grow by about 25% to more than one billion passengers within the next decade.