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$1 billion from infrastructure law to boost 85 airports, Biden administration says

An airplane approaches Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. The airport is one of several to receive money from the infrastructure funding. (Tony Gutierrez/AP)
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The Biden administration on Thursday announced nearly $1 billion in spending to improve 85 airports across the country. The allocation taps funding authorized last year in the bipartisan infrastructure law in what administration officials say is a sorely needed infusion to upgrade terminals, baggage screening and air traffic control towers.

“America is a country that brought the modern aviation age to the world — and yet around the world, in most rankings of airport quality, not one of our airports ranks among the top 25,” said Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “That’s something that we have to change.”

While the Federal Aviation Administration has often invested in runways and air traffic control towers, the latest funding also goes toward improving terminals, checked baggage inspection areas and security checkpoints.

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“Airport terminals is not something the federal government has historically invested in. It's typically been to local airport owners and airlines that have done that,” said Mitch Landrieu, a former New Orleans mayor who Biden has charged with overseeing the $1.2 trillion infrastructure package. “But the need is evident.”

Buttigieg said airlines are still footing the costs for many airport improvement projects, but also argued that airport infrastructure is an appropriate use of federal resources.

“I don't think anybody could look at airports across America today and say that the existing system or the existing levels of funding have been adequate,” he said. “It is very natural for public funds to go to publicly important resources and pieces of infrastructure. And we think that includes airport terminals.”

The funding ranges from large hubs like Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport to rural airports like Dexter Regional Airport in Maine.

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The projects include $20 million to construct a new terminal and improve baggage screening at Pittsburgh International Airport; $5 million for a terminal expansion at Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport; and $50 million to construct four gates and improve access for those with disabilities at Orlando International Airport.

The funding comes from 1 of 3 aviation programs created by the infrastructure law, giving $1 billion annually over the next five years to improve airports.