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Policy Statement 445 - Aviation Transportation Program

 
Approved by the Transportation Policy Committee on April 13, 2018 
Approved by the Public Policy Committee on May 6, 2018
Adopted by the Board Policy Committee on July 13, 2018

Policy  

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) supports the permanent extension and increase of user fees to adequately fund the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) through the Airport and Airway Trust Fund (Trust Fund). Such funds should not be used to pay for security costs but specifically be used for enhancing airport safety, capacity, and maintenance. ASCE supports the removal of the Federally-imposed cap on Passenger Facility Charges (PFC). Furthermore, ASCE recommends that all monies collected from these user fees be deposited in the Trust Fund with budgetary firewalls to eliminate the diversion of transportation revenues to other purposes. ASCE supports timely multi-year reauthorization of aviation programs to ensure predictability and stability in airport improvement funding.  

Trust Fund balances should not exceed necessary funds to meet obligations plus an appropriate reserve. Budget protections, such as firewalls or spending guarantees and supporting mechanisms, which make it difficult for Congress to appropriate less than the amount authorized for the AIP, should be part of the reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) programs to maximize investment in the nation's aviation infrastructure. 

ASCE supports the continued and accelerated implementation of the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen).

Issue  

AIP funding and PFCs are the primary sources for funding airport capacity improvement projects. Congress needs to provide continued but separate funding for security operations that are not reliant on AIP and PFC funds. 

AIP is the major airport infrastructure investment program of the FAA and provides grants to the nation's airports for capital projects such as capacity enhancements, airfield and airport access improvements, facility enhancements to meet current design standards, and major aviation projects. It is important that all the Airport and Airway Trust Fund receipts collected in the fiscal year are timely allocated to projects and not create an uncommitted surplus. The expenditure of Trust Fund monies for airport improvements is critical to meeting the demands of the national aviation system. 

According to the FAA Aerospace Forecast 2018-2038, the total system revenue passenger miles (RPMs) increased 2.9% in 2017 while system enplanements grew 2.6%. Air cargo based on revenue ton miles (RTMs) is expected to grow 9.7% in 2018 after posting a 9.5% increase in 2017. Congestion continues to cause delays at the nation's busiest airports. According to the FAA, in 2017 over 20% of commercial aircraft flights were delayed, including just under 6% due to national aviation system delays including runway closure, heavy traffic volumes, and air traffic control reasons.  The FAA acknowledges that the PFCs alone are not sufficient to meet capital investment needs of the nation's airports.

The Airport Council International-North America (ACI-NA) Airports Infrastructure Needs 2017-2021 estimates that United States airports have nearly $100 billion in infrastructure needs to accommodate growth in passenger and cargo activity, rehabilitate existing facilities, and support aircraft innovation.  National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems (NPIAS) estimates that over the next five years (2017-2021) approximately $32.5 billion of AIP-eligible infrastructure development will be needed at 3,340 public-use airports of significance to national air transportation to meet the needs of all segments of civil aviation.  According to the FAA, infrastructure rehabilitation, maintaining a state of good repair, and compliance with FAA standards accounts for 79% of this development, while growth in passengers and cargo activity and aircraft size account for 21%. 

Rationale

In 2018 2014 the FAA forecast total U.S. commercial air carrier domestic passenger enplanements would surpass 1 billion over the next seventeen years.  The FAA forecast also predicts system traffic in RPMs to increase by 2.3% a year between 2018 and 2037.  Total air cargo revenue ton miles (RTMs) (freight/express and mail) is projected to increase an average of 1.9% over the next 20 years.  In order to increase capacity and reduce congestion, the nation must continue to increase funding for airport development and upgrades, and for the modernization of the national air traffic control system. The Total Delay Impact Study, commissioned by the FAA, estimated that the total direct cost of air transportation delays was over $31.2 billion, 50% of which was borne by passengers for lost time due to airline schedule buffers, flight delays and cancellations, and missed flight connections. 

Airports also face the challenges of accommodating a variety of aircraft, evolving aircraft, integrating unmanned aircraft systems, managing increasing data needs, and implementing infrastructure and operational changes that capture NextGen benefits. ASCE continues to support the use of dedicated user fees and trust funds to fund infrastructure needs. 

ASCE Policy Statement 445 
First Approved in 1996   


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