Washington — The Biden administration is giving nearly $1 billion to 85 airports to expand and upgrade terminals and other facilities, using money approved in last year's.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said the projects will help meet future demand for travel and make flying safer and more efficient.
"I don't think anybody could look at airports across America today and say that the existing system and existing levels of funding have been adequate," Buttigieg told reporters.
The grants announced Thursday are the first installment of $5 billion for airport projects that were included in an infrastructure bill that Congress approved and President Biden signed last November.
The largest of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) grants include $60 million to improve the terminal and replace the bag-handling system at Denver International Airport, $50 million apiece for Boston's Logan Airport and Orlando International Airport in Florida, $49.6 million for Dulles Airport outside Washington, D.C., to build a new concourse and $20 million for Pittsburgh International Airport to build a new terminal next to the old one.
The main airports in Detroit and Philadelphia will get more than $20 million each to renovate their restrooms.
The FAA said 532 airports submitted applications for 658 projects that, if all had been granted, would have totaled more than $14 billion.
In the past, federal funds have gone largely into runways, taxiways and towers while airports paid for terminal upgrades with money they get from passenger facility charges, or PFCs — up to $4.50 per flight that is tacked onto every airline ticket.
Buttigieg said it is fine to spend taxpayer money on projects that were generally funded by passenger fees in the past because "there is a need out there; taxpayers expect it and want it."
Congress could consider raising ticket taxes for airport projects next year. Airports want to raise the fees, but airlines don't.
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