Opinion: Investing In Airports is a Top Priority for U.S. Dept. of Transportation

November 22, 2019The Philadelphia Inquirer | By Elaine Chao

As demand for air travel grows, this Administration through the U.S. Department of Transportation is partnering with state and local governments to invest in our airport infrastructure.

Thanks to a robust economy and lower ticket prices, more people can afford to fly to their destinations. Newly released airline traffic estimates show 78.1 million passengers flew on U.S. airlines in October 2019. That’s a 4.4% increase from the previous year.

To keep pace with the wear and tear on our nation’s airports, this Administration has awarded more than $10.8 billion in Airport Improvement Program grants since January 2017 to more than 2,000 U.S. airports to improve safety and infrastructure.

Since January 2017, the Department has delivered more than $258.3 million to airports across the state of Pennsylvania. Some of the most recent investments include:

Philadelphia International Airport, which received two grants totaling over $23 million to reconstruct taxiways

  • Northeast Philadelphia Airport, which received nearly $9 million to reconstruct a runway
  • Chester County G. O. Carlson Airport, which received $2 million to rehabilitate an apron
  • Reading Regional Airport, which received over $2 million to rehabilitate runways

More than half of all Airport Improvement Program funds go toward constructing or rehabilitating runways, taxiways, and aprons. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) pavement standards help protect this investment by ensuring pavements last as long as possible.

Airfield pavement needs regular maintenance to seal cracks and repair damage, which increases the time between major rehabilitation cycles. Runway pavement in a state of good maintenance minimizes any damage to aircraft and avoids unnecessary additional costs for major rehabilitation. Efficient airport surfaces mean more on-time flights.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) not only supports infrastructure through funding – we are delivering much needed improvements more quickly. DOT is working hard to streamline the approval process, cut unnecessary red tape and reduce unnecessary, duplicative regulations that do not contribute to safety.

These investments and reforms are especially timely because the U.S. economy is the strongest it has been in years, with GDP growth of 2.8 percent in the first half of 2019. Employers have added more than 6 million net new jobs since January 2017. The unemployment rate is still a remarkable 3.6 percent—the lowest in 50 years.

For the first time in many years, personal income is growing — rising 3.2 percent during the past 12 months. Nominal average hourly wage gains had not reached 3 percent in over 10 years.

Aviation is an important part of that growth. U.S. civil aviation supports more than 5% of U.S. gross domestic product; $1.6 trillion in economic activity; and nearly 11 million jobs.

The completion of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) adds another boost to this growth. It has been 25 years since the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement, so an update of our trade policies with Mexico and Canada was long overdue.

The USMCA is a bipartisan agreement that can help deliver a win for America’s farmers, ranchers, employers and workers. And, it will help address longstanding trade imbalances by opening up markets for American products and services across all sectors of our economy.

Taken together, these investments are vital to helping our country keep pace with economic growth by moving people and goods faster, cheaper and more efficiently. That means a stronger economy, more job creation, and a better quality of life for everyone.

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