Saturday, 3 October 2009

US continues airport stimulus funds

In August, US television network CBS reported that, out of a total of $1.1 billion in federal grant money from the Obama administration, the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) had awarded $100 million to 50 airport projects that did not meet with grant criteria. Stimulus money had been spent on tiny airports serving recreational flyers and corporate jets, and small remote communities, including $15 million for Ouzinkie, with a population of just 167, to replace its runway. In addition, the FAA approved funds for four airports with a track record of mismanagement of federal funds

Yet, in September, the US Senate was considering legislation to allow an increase in the most obvious form of aviation subsidy, to raise the maximum airport passenger fees from $4.50 to £7 per passenger. According to the FAA this would raise about $1.3 billion for airport development. This is particularly eagerly awaited by Chicago O’Hare Airport, to enable expansion to 8 runways and a new terminal, a controversial development as documented by the blog The Reckless Expansion of O’Hare Airport. Many US airports are still receiving considerable stimulus funds for baggage handling and security including $14.4 for San Antonio Airport and $15.6 million for Dayton.

In addition to federal stimulus funds, some states are still proving generous. For example since 2003, Pennsylvania has spent more than $87 million in state funds to improve the state’s airports and in June Governor of Pennsylvania Edward G Rendell announced expenditure of nearly US$3 million for 16 airports to improve safety and facility maintenance.

Port Columbus Airport in Ohio, USA, has requested $1.5 million from President Obama’s economic stimulus package to replace its leaking roof with a ‘green’ roof. Green roofs already garnish the most visible buildings in several airports including Chicago’ O’Hare and Midway, with landscape planting on water-resistant membranes deflecting heat, absorbing noise and reducing water runoff. The airport is also hoping for $650,000 for five low-emission, fuel-efficient shuttle buses. Great measures for improving the airport’s environmental performance and image, but none of this tinkering with the airport site will reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from the core business of the flights.

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