A Guide to Transportation Funding Options
Aviation Funding – Programs
The FAA is primarily tasked with ensuring safety in civil aviation. It accomplishes this through:
- Regulating civil aviation to promote safety
- Encouraging and developing civil aeronautics, including new aviation technology
- Developing and operating a system of air traffic control and navigation for both civil and military aircraft
- Researching and developing the National Airspace System and civil aeronautics
- Developing and carrying out programs to control aircraft noise and other environmental effects of civil aviation
- Regulating U.S. commercial space transportation
The FAA administers between $3.8 and $4 billion per year in grants-in-aid for airports in addition to its air traffic control administration and other safety activities. The FAA provides these funds primarily through the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) and recently the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009.
This bill is the first reauthorization of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) since it was created in the Aviation and Transportation Security Act of 2001 (PL 107-71). (In 2002, the Transportation Security Administration was moved into the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) when the DHS was created.) The bill authorizes $7.6 billion in FY 2010 and $8.1 billion in FY 2011 for the activities of the TSA, including key increases over FY 2009 funding.
Ever since the TSA was created in 2001, its focus has been on aviation security. This bill represents a step in putting security funding for surface transportation modes on par with aviation security funding. This has come about due to the recognition by legislators that surface transportation systems are as crucial to the nation as aviation and are as vulnerable to security threats.
Enhancements for Aviation Security
- Directs the TSA to establish a system for verifying that all air cargo on inbound foreign passenger flights is properly screened,
- Directs the TSA to develop a strategic, risk-based plan to enhance security of airport perimeter access controls,
- Prohibits Federal employees and contractors from providing advance notice of covert testing to security screeners,
- Authorizes TSA to reimburse airports for certain security-related expenses,
- Requires the Secretary of Homeland Security to create a general aviation working group to provide feedback and recommendations regarding general aviation concerns,
- Creates a $10 million grant program for improving security measures at general aviation airports based on recommendations from the working group.
The AIP provides grants to public agencies – and in some cases, to private owners and entities – for the planning and development of public use airports that are included in the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems (NPIAS). It is the most significant source of federal funding available to airports and airport operators.
The program was established by the Airport and Airway Improvement Act of 1982. The AIP has been amended several times, most recently by the Wendall H. Ford Aviation Investment Act for the 21st Century (AIR-21). Funds obligated for the AIP are drawn from the Airport and Airway Trust fund.
For large and medium primary hub airports, grants cover 75 percent of eligible costs (or 80 percent for noise program implementation). For small primary, reliever, and general aviation airports, grants cover 95 percent of eligible costs. Eligible projects include those improvements related to enhancing airport safety, capacity, security, and environmental concerns.
To receive funding under the AIP, airport facilities must be a component of the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems (NPIAS). The NPIAS identifies over 3,400 existing and proposed airports that are significant to national air transportation. It also includes estimates of the amount of AIP money needed to fund infrastructure development projects that will bring these airports up to current design standards and add capacity to congested airports. The NPIAS comprises all commercial service airports, all reliever airports, and selected general aviation airports. Sixty-five percent (3,356) of the nation’s 5,190 public-use airports are included in the NPIAS. There are 1,834 public-use airports that are not included in the NPIAS because they do not meet the minimum entry criteria, are located at inadequate sites, or cannot be expanded and improved to provide a safe and efficient airport. All primary and commercial service airports, all general aviation airports designated as reliever airports by FAA, and selected general aviation airports are included in the plan. FAA, in concert with State aviation agencies and local planning organizations, identifies airports that are important to the system for inclusion in the NPIAS.
The general principles guiding Federal involvement have remained unchanged since a national airport system was envisioned in the Federal Airport Act of 1946. Airport systems should have the following attributes to meet the demand for air transportation:
- Airports should be safe and efficient; located at optimum sites; and developed and maintained to appropriate standards.
- Airports should be affordable to both users and Government, relying primarily on user fees and placing minimal burden on the general revenues of local, state, and Federal Government.
- Airports should be flexible and expandable, able to meet increased demand and to accommodate new aircraft types.
- Airports should be permanent, with assurance that they will remain open for aeronautical use over the long term.
- Airports should be compatible with surrounding communities, maintaining a balance between the needs of aviation and the requirements of residents of neighboring areas.
- Airports should be developed in concert with improvements to the air traffic control system.
- The airport system should support national objectives for defense, emergency readiness, and postal delivery.
- The airport system should be extensive, providing as many people as possible with convenient access to air transportation, typically not more than 20 miles travel to the nearest NPIAS airport.
- The airport system should help air transportation contribute to a productive national economy and international competitiveness.
Transit Security Grant Program (TSGP)
To help defray the costs of securing U.S. transit systems, including airports, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has provided transit security grant funding to transit and aviation agencies since 2003. Beginning in fiscal year 2005, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has provided annual appropriations for security at the nation’s airport system.
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