AIRPORT AUTHORITY’S BRADLEY D. PENROD AND ACI-NA TESTIFIES TO SUCCESS OF STIMULUS FUNDING FOR AIRPORT IMPROVEMENT
Washington, D.C. —Bradley D. Penrod, Executive Director and CEO of the Allegheny County Airport Authority, testified yesterday, June 25, 2009, on behalf of the members of Airports Council International-North America before the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure on the success of the Committee’s decision to appropriate federal funds to airports under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The funds were allocated using the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Airport Improvement Program (AIP) process to finance shovel-ready projects at airports.
“The Committee’s decision to distribute the $1.1 billion ultimately appropriated using the AIP process has proven to be very successful,” said Penrod. “It has allowed us as an industry, working in conjunction with our partners at the FAA, to move forward quickly, using a process we all know and understand, and one which provides clear guidelines.” Penrod said the use of the AIP program as the funding vehicle explains why the FAA recently reported that all but $5 million of the $1.1 billion appropriated had been authorized to 323 projects. The fact the FAA has moved expeditiously to obligate the funding has allowed airports to “proceed with our projects and get on with the job of helping create the estimated 30,000 to 47,000 jobs that come from the $1 billion investment in construction,” he said.
In his testimony, Penrod acknowledged that while some question the need to allocate stimulus funds for airport projects at a time of decreased passenger traffic, “there is still a critical need to maintain the safety and efficiency of our airfields and terminals,” he said. “Further, we are committed to making the necessary infrastructure investments to prepare for the expected 25 percent growth in service that the FAA predicts our industry will face by 2021 when it is estimated that 1 billion people will take to the sky. Airports have to continually plan for the future.”
During the hearing on “Recovery Act: 120-Day Progress Report for Transportation Programs,” Penrod also said that airports have benefited from the two year Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) exemption for private activity bonds included in the stimulus bill. Penrod said a number of airports have been able to find buyers for their bonds in recent months because the AMT exemption made them more attractive. Prior to the exemption, the AMT penalty caused airport bonds “to be unattractive on the markets,” with no 30-year airport bonds being sold from August through December 2008.
The AMT will have a long-term effect due to investments in infrastructure that airports will be able to make, Penrod said. “That equates to tens of millions of dollars in economic development and the creation of hundreds if not thousands of good paying jobs. In terms of airport infrastructure there is no doubt that the AMT provision has had a stimulating impact in the short and long terms.”
View ACI-NA’s testimony.
Penrod’s testimony related to Pittsburgh International Airport and Allegheny County Airport:
The State of Pennsylvania was privileged to receive the first economic recovery money. DOT Secretary LaHood announced on March 12 that Pittsburgh International Airport would receive $10 million as part of the recovery package and $2 million would go to the Allegheny County Airport. As Vice President Biden noted at the time, “This is money that will create jobs now – but it’s also an investment in the long term safety of our airports and their economic viability.”
At the Allegheny County Airport, the $2 million of stimulus funding will be used to renovate parts of four taxiways and reconfigure aircraft apron areas that will allow for the future construction of aircraft maintenance hangars and their associated ramp space. Construction is scheduled to begin the week of July 20, 2009. The reconfiguration associated with this project will allow us to construct the necessary infrastructure that is so critical for future aviation/airport industry demands, while also correcting an antiquated physical layout. When completed, we will be able to make space available for the construction of much needed aircraft maintenance hangar facilities. Thus, the $2 million project not only creates the immediate number of construction jobs listed below, but also positions the airport to allow construction jobs associated with new hangars and the long term creation of aircraft maintenance and operations positions as well. Our Economic Impact Study estimates that the $2 million Allegheny County Airport project will create 40 jobs – 24 direct jobs and 16 secondary jobs.
The $10 million stimulus project at the Pittsburgh International Airport will rehabilitate runway 14-32, one of four runways used by commercial flights which bring 8.7 million passengers a year through our airport. Runway 14-32 is critical in that as the primary night time arrival runway, it is our preferential runway for noise abatement procedures. The $10 million will be utilized to rehabilitate airfield pavement, make grading improvements and update pavement markings, airfield signage and lighting systems. By allowing us to rehabilitate this runway, the airport is able to continue its ability to operate in the most environmentally friendly manner possible, while offering an exceptionally efficient airfield to both military and civilian aircraft operators. This project will create an estimated 207 jobs: 122 direct jobs and 85 indirect jobs. Advertising for this project starts June 24, 2009 with a notice to proceed expected to be given to the successful contractor on September 1, 2009.
Airports Council International - North America represents local, regional and state governing bodies that own and operate commercial airports in the United States and Canada. ACI-NA member airports enplane more than 95 percent of the domestic and virtually all the international airline passenger and cargo traffic in North America. Almost 400 aviation-related businesses are also members of the association, which is the largest of the five worldwide regions of Airports Council International.