The Senate Thursday overwhelmingly passed a five-year Federal Aviation Administration authorization that features a 20% boost for major airport capital improvement projects.

The bipartisan measure, which had been stalled by negotiations over an ultimately successful move to add additional flights to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, heads now to the House, which is expected to take it up Tuesday.

The Senate also passed a week-long extension of current funding to give the House sufficient time to pass the new authorization. President Joe Biden is expected to sign the short-term extension Friday ahead of the midnight funding lapse.

The bill was the final must-pass piece of legislation for the Senate until the fall.

“After months of painstaking work, the FAA reauthorization is passing the Senate today,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said on the Senate floor ahead of the vote. “Aviation safety has been front of mind for millions of Americans recently, and this FAA bill is the best thing Congress can do to give Americans the peace of mind they deserve.” 

He added that the measure would help “avoid costly delays to airport infrastructure projects.”

“This FAA bill is the best thing Congress can do to give Americans the peace of mind they deserve,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said after the Senate passed a five-year reauthorization.

Bloomberg News

The Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act of 2024 allocates $105 billion to the FAA through fiscal 2028. It increases appropriations for the Airport Improvement Program, a key airport funding program that provides grants for runways, taxiways and new roads, to $4 billion a year, or $20 billion over the five-year period. The funding had been set at $3.4 billion annually. It’s the first AIP increase in 20 years, said the Transportation Construction Coalition in a May 7 letter to Congressional leaders urging passage.

The legislation “will ensure that projects are not halted or delayed due to supply chain constraints or unpredictable cost increases by allowing the use of price adjustment clauses on AIP projects,” the group said. “Price adjustment clauses can help ensure critical taxiway and runway projects are not jeopardized during inflationary times while also making certain construction jobs are not threatened in the process.”

The $19.35 billion in airport infrastructure grant programs comes on top of the $970 million awarded to 114 airports in February for terminal projects as part of President Biden’s Infrastructure and Jobs Act. The IIJA provides a total of $20 billion for airports through 2026.

The AIP is one of three funding mechanisms for airports in addition to passenger facility charges, which often back airport bonds and also haven’t been raised in 20 years, and tenant rents and fees.

The roughly 3,300 airports across the country face $151 billion in infrastructure needs over the next five years, according to the 2023 U.S. Airport Infrastructure Needs Report.

The legislation requires the FAA to hire and train 3,000 new air traffic controllers and to use new technology designed to prevent collisions between planes on runways. It also requires airlines to pay a refund to customers for flight delays, in line with a recent Department of Transportation rule.

An amendment that would have included full federal funding to replace Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge was not included in the final legislation.

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