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Infrastructure Week Event Highlights Need for Airport Investments

(May 16, 2018) Airports across the nation are handling more passengers than ever and the time to build is now. TPA CEO Joe Lopano shows U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor rendering

This was the resounding message from members of Congress and other state and national leaders at a May 15 meeting hosted by Tampa International Airport titled “Investment that Matters: Keeping America’s Airports Competitive.” The event was one of more than a hundred such forums scheduled nationwide to mark Infrastructure Week, which highlights everything from bike lanes to railways and water lines. TPA hosted Airports Council International-North America and Building America’s Future along with members of the Tampa Congressional delegation for a press conference and tour of recent TPA improvements as well as the location of a future new 16-gate Airside D.

The lawmakers and industry leaders called for robust infrastructure investment that includes significant funding for airports. Standing in Airside F, where an expansion was completed in 2012, airport CEO Joe Lopano highlighted the need to invest in facilities that will increase airline competition to give passengers more choices and grow air service to support economic development in the region.

“By improving this facility, we were able to accommodate new flights to Switzerland, Panama and Germany. Those flights have had an economic impact on our region that totals hundreds of millions of dollars, a huge return on a $26 million investment,” Lopano said.

The project was partly paid for with revenues from Passenger Facility Charges (PFC), a fee attached to each airline ticket that is used to make airport upgrades that increase capacity or improve safety. Congress has not adjusted the fee since 2001.

“We have got to have a major investment in this country that will help create jobs and lift people in communities across the country,” said U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, who introduced an amendment to a Federal Aviation Authority reauthorization bill last month that would cap baggage fees by the same amount of the PFC and tie any increase to increases in the PFC. “Part of that has got to be allowing airports – which have been very good stewards of local, state and federal money – to have a little bit of extra room to make those investments in our communities.”

Former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, a co-founder of Building America’s Future, called for an infrastructure support across the board.

“Without long-term investments in the nation’s infrastructure and airports, America risks losing its competitive edge with the rest of the world,” Rendell said.  “The competitiveness of our infrastructure was ranked number one in the world in 2005 yet today we are ranked ninth.  As we mark the sixth annual Infrastructure Week, I call on Washington to take action and approve a long-term infrastructure plan that includes modernizing the PFC which has not been raised in nearly 20 years.   Let’s all work together to make our infrastructure and our airports the envy of the world.”

Airports nationwide are trying to align current funding resources with growing infrastructure needs to close a $10 billion a year funding gap for airport infrastructure improvements.

“Despite their essential role in our national transportation infrastructure, America’s airports face unprecedented challenges when it comes to meeting their growing infrastructure needs,” said ACI-NA President and CEO Kevin M. Burke.  “U.S. airports have nearly $100 billion in infrastructure needs through 2021, many without a determined revenue source.  This Infrastructure Week, we continue to call on Congress and the Trump Administration to work together and provide airports with the tools they need to make local infrastructure investment decisions, including eliminating the outdated cap on the Passenger Facility Charge user fee and increasing the Airport Improvement Program."

The annual Infrastructure Week features dozens of events throughout the country in a bipartisan call for investment in airports, roads, rail, water systems and other vital infrastructure.

For more information, go to www.InfrastructureWeek.org, follow @InfraWeek on Twitter or follow the hashtag #TimeToBuild