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On Tuesday, March 26, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee (T&I) held a hearing to explore options to improve our nation’s airport infrastructure. During the hearing titled “The cost of doing nothing: Why investment in our nation’s airport matters,” Chairman Peter DeFazio, D-Ore, noted that “crippling congestion has become the norm in our country” and that the congestion is having a negative impact on U.S. air travel “with terminals clogged with passengers; runways and taxiways needing additions and rehabilitation; and airplanes sitting on tarmacs across the country waiting for gates.”
NSSGA is encouraged that Congress is convening bipartisan hearings to not only address our critical infrastructure needs, but to come up with creative solutions that provide a lasting and positive impact on the lives of everyday Americans. NSSGA and the Highway Materials Group submitted comments to the hearing that urged Congress to eliminate the cap on the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC), a locally-imposed, Federally-authorized user fee that airports may collect from their passengers to finance airport-related projects.
DeFazio’s remarks focused on those deficiencies and the increased costs consumers must pay as a result. As a solution, DeFazio suggested increasing the PFC. “We need more terminals, more runways and taxiways. And without an increase in the PFC, who bears the brunt? Passengers. They end up paying basically double for a project and wait years longer than necessary for project completion,” he said.
Ranking member Sam Graves, R-Mo, observed the $4.5 billion airport grants Congress authorized in 2018 have paid off. Graves said, “98 percent of runways at commercial service airports are in excellent, good, or fair condition and new terminals open every year. However, more passengers than ever will travel through our airports this year, and demand is expected to grow. Therefore, reviewing airport infrastructure investment makes sense.” Graves cautioned that although passenger traffic increased by only 13 percent and recent surveys pegged airport infrastructure costs 80 percent higher than surveys from four years ago, Congress must be careful to discern the difference between infrastructure needs and infrastructure wants. Citing a new terminal in his district’s Kansas City International Airport, Graves said that “an unlimited PFC would have allowed the city and airport to circumvent the voters and spend without regard to impacts on taxpayers or passengers” adding that in terms of an infrastructure package, he was skeptical of any proposal that adds to the traveling public’s burden, fails to fully consider the views of local communities and passengers, and lacks a full range of financing options, including private capital.