US airport construction receives funding boom from federal government

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced it is awarding nearly US$1 billion to 144 airports across the country with grant funding coming from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law

A construction crew works on an airport runway. (Image: Adobe Stock) A construction crew works on an airport runway. US airport activites are booming to start 2024. (Image: Adobe Stock)

The Construction Briefing wondered earlier this year if global airport construction activities would be boom or bust in 2024 and, while it’s only February, actions by the US federal government indicate the country is hoping for the former.

According to the US Department of Transportation (DOT), the grant funding aims to modernise airport terminals in 44 states and three territories to meet growing air travel demand. 

 “Under this administration, we are doing more to improve the travel experience than ever before, from expanding consumer protections to modernising the physical infrastructure,” said US Transportation Security Pete Buttigieg. “These investments… will make it easier for passengers to get to and through airports, create jobs, and increase safety for all.”

Job creation would come both from the work contracted and will result once builds are finished.

“Today’s funding not only helps modernise airports to meet the needs of travellers today – and for years to come – but also creates good-paying job opportunities in communities both large and small,” said FAA Associate Administrator for Airports Shannetta R. Griffin, P.E.

The US has already committed nearly $2 billion to airport improvements, bringing the overall investment since 2022 to roughly $3 billion.

The most recent round of investment comes from the FAA’s Airport Terminal Program, one of three aviation programs created by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. 

US airports receiving grant funding

The money will spread throughout the country, as only six states (of 50 total) were left off the most recent round of grant funding.

The projects were broken down into segments with some receiving new/expanded terminal facilities, other projects focusing on improving passenger experience, additional jobs will improve access, roadways, and transportation, some work will refurbish traffic control towers, several projects aim to increase terminal sustainability, and a final focus is on improving airport access to smaller communities.

New/expanded terminal work

The following grantee locations are among those getting new or expanded terminals:

  • $35 million to Washington Dulles International Airport in Virginia: This award funds a portion of the construction of a 14-gate, 400,000 sq. ft. (37,161 m2) terminal building including connections to the Aerotrain and Metrorail.
  • $20 million to Salt Lake City International Airport in Utah: This award funds a portion of the Concourse B terminal expansion that will include 16 gates.
  • $10 million to Hector International Airport in Fargo, North Dakota: This award funds a portion of the rehabilitation and expansion of the existing terminal. Rehabilitation includes upgrades to lighting, reconfiguration and expansion of hold rooms, and improve Americans with Disabilities (ADA) compliance. Expansion includes four new gates for a total of nine, increasing hold room space, expanded ticketing/baggage handling, expanded restrooms and post-security concessions.
American flags line a walkway in Chicago O'Hare's International Airport. (Image: Adobe Stock) American flags line a walkway in Chicago O’Hare’s International Airport in Illinois, US. (Image: Adobe Stock)

US airports improving passenger experience

While security and safety is a big part of improving passenger experience, some elements of the grants include constructing ‘faster and more reliable’ baggage systems.

Improvements to accessibility for passengers with disabilities will also be featured.

Locations using funding for passenger experience improvements include:

  • $40 million to Chicago O’Hare International Airport in Illinois: This award funds improvements to Terminal 3 to include increasing the central passenger corridor width, a reconfigured TSA checkpoint, new hold room, a new ADA compliant and family restroom, and updates to the baggage system.
  • $26.6 million to Denver International Airport in Colorado: This award funds a portion of the baggage handling system replacement, including the control system. In addition, the new system will improve energy efficiency and increase capacity.
  • $8.6 million to Kahului Airport in Hawaii: This project funds the construction of a new two-story security screening checkpoint facility at the south end of the ticket lobby. The facility will include six new TSA screening lanes. A pedestrian bridge will connect the new checkpoint facility to a hold room and will span over the existing service road.
  • $7.5 million to Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport in Kentucky: This award funds a portion of the Terminal A security screening expansion project, which consists of adding four screening lanes to the security checkpoint.
  • $2 million to Spokane International Airport in Washington: This award funds up to two additional ticket counters and passenger boarding bridges, and portions of the HVAC, mechanical, electrical, plumbing upgrades, shared use & hearing-impaired technology, smart glass, solar energy connection, baggage handling systems, and other considerable ADA improvements.
  • $1.5 million to Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport in Alaska: This award funds the installation of 110 audio and visual monitors and stations throughout the terminal to better serve the passengers.
Access to transportation and improved roadways

The following locations will use funds to improve transportation infrastructure:

  • $31 million to Los Angeles International Airport in California: This award funds two areas of the auxiliary curbs at ITF West and ITF East, which includes a combination of new, extending, widening, and utility improvements of surrounding roadways. This also includes underground low impact development (LID) storm water containment systems.
  • $8 million to Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers, Florida: This award funds a portion of the reconfiguration and expansion of the terminal access and curbside roadways.
  • $7 million to Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport in Louisiana: This award funds construction of the foundation for the North/South Connector Road’s north phase. The foundational piling operations will provide structural resiliency to withstand future climatic events, which have deteriorated the soil and created environmental concerns in prior years. The new road will connect the airport’s north and south terminals and will link the terminals to the airport’s upcoming multimodal transit facility that has passenger rail service.
Airport-owned traffic control projects

These locations will seek to improve their air-traffic control facilities:

  • $10 million to Duluth International Airport in Minnesota: This award funds the relocation of an airport-owned traffic control tower, a non-standard tower commissioned in 1963. The project includes design, project formulation, site preparation, line of sight obstruction removal, and other related actions.
  • $5.4 million to Martin State Airport in Middle River, Maryland: This award partially funds a new Airport Traffic Control Tower that has reached the end of its useful life.
  • $4.5 million to Valley International Airport in Harlingen, Texas: This award funds approximately 25% of the construction costs of a new sponsor-owned airport traffic control tower. This project replaces the existing tower that has an identified line of sight impediment, is not ADA compliant, and has structural integrity issues. Funding for this phase focuses on the foundation and base of the tower construction.
US air travel seeking improved sustainability

Sustainability was a key aspect of the grants, and these airports will make updates to help reduce their overall footprint:

  • $31 million to San Francisco International Airport in California: This award will replace critical mechanical and electrical components (VFDs, fans, dampers, actuators, control valves, sensors, and other associated elements) of the HVAC system at the International Terminal. Replacing these components will improve fire-life safety compliance, reduce energy usage, reduce maintenance costs, and improve resilience.
  • $27 million to Charlotte Douglas International Airport in North Carolina: This award funds the replacement of up to 16 passenger boarding bridges and associated ground power units and pre-conditioned air units.
  • $3.4 million to Appleton International Airport in Wisconsin: This award funds the airport’s expansion and modernisation project that includes a four-gate concourse expansion and will include a 60,000 sq. ft. (5,574 m2) expansion increasing the number of gates to ten. This award will partially fund the final phase of the concourse expansion project, including passenger boarding bridges, a solar and sustainability program, and mechanical equipment.
Appleton International Airport (ATW). (Image: ATW) Appleton International Airport (ATW) in Wisconsin, US. (Image: ATW)

Click here for a complete list of all US airports receiving grant funding.

Due to government funding, US airport construction should boom

While global airport construction activities are decidedly mixed, the US – as expected – is leading the way in volume and big builds.

“It is [probable] the [US will], for a change, be the most inviting prospect for the airport investment community in 2024,” the Centre for Aviation CAPA stated in its 2023 summary and 2024 outlook.

The country may be an outlier, however, as CAPA still believes the effects of Covid-19 will prevent categorical international moves in the sector.

“To put it bluntly,” stated CAPA, “airport construction investment is somnambulating as a direct result of the Covid-19 pandemic, inflation, and global tensions; as indeed is investment in most other industries, together with stultified attempts at privatising assets, and there is no sign that any of these pressures will subside in the immediate future.”


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