March 4, 2021
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Nearly $2 billion in federal grant funding is now available to help airports affected by COVID-19 under the Federal Aviation Administration’s Airport Coronavirus Response Grant program.

[Above photo by the Indianapolis International Airport.]

“President Biden has made it a priority to deliver immediate relief to our transportation sectors and their workers, ensuring they can continue to provide essential services through this pandemic and beyond,” noted U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg in a statement.

USDT Sec. Buttigieg at right. Photo by USDOT.

“[This] is one of many steps we are taking to protect the health of America’s travelers and workers, while keeping our nation’s airport operations and related small businesses up and running,” he said.

The program – funded under the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2020, passed in late December 2020 as part of a broader legislative package – is open to more than 3,000 commercial service, reliever, and publicly owned general-aviation airports in the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems.

Photo by the Indianapolis International Airport

Airports – which must apply for the grants by June 30 – can use that funding to reimburse operational expenses, cover debt service payments, and costs related to combating the spread of pathogens. The program also includes money for rent relief to airport concessions and to support FAA contract towers for items such as cleaning and sanitizing facilities affected by COVID-19 cases.

Concurrently, the second “phase” of a two-part Harvard University study of pathogen response efforts deployed by U.S. airports found that airports are “proactive in implementing measures to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The second phase of that study – published on February 11 – added that the application of a layered NPI or non-pharmaceutical intervention approach “significantly contributes to risk reduction” in terms of SARS-CoV-2 transmission, another term for COVID-19, in airport settings.

Photo by the Colorado DOT

However, Harvard’s researchers stressed in their study that, “the success of risk mitigation requires the comprehensive and coordinated implementation of proven strategies by airport and airline operators along with behavioral compliance by workers and travelers.”

Several state department of transportation studies – including ones from Georgia, Wyoming, and Alaska – show function as significant “economic engines” as well as key mobility hubs.

Yet airports are also suffering long-term fiscal losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A recent report by the Airports Council International–North America trade association indicates U.S. airports will lose at least $17 billion between April 2021 and March 2022 due of the prolonged decline in commercial aviation traffic resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Those losses are in addition to the $23 billion U.S. airports are expected to lose between March 2020 and March 2021, the group added.

editor@aashto.org

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