Two years ago at the Yeager Airport in West Virginia we were reminded of the poor state of America’s airports. A safety area at the end of a runway, meant to mitigate emergencies, broke free and fell down a hill. The accident crushed a church and forced 100 people from their homes.
President Trump has pledged to help our air travel network, and the improvements can’t come soon enough.
Despite Congress allocating $3.2 billion to airport projects annually, this falls far short of what is actually required. A funding increase is paramount to updating our airports; in each of the next five years, airports will need a total of $6.5 billion due to increased passenger levels and aging facilities.
The Yeager Airport, for example, built their current air traffic control tower 67 years ago. Needless to say, an upgrade is long overdue.
Some funding has come already, with just about $863 million in federal grants going toward runway and terminal reparations. This is a good start, but it only scratches the surface in what is really needed to maintain a safe and secure airport.
Like all infrastructure, airports are a vital economic support system for the communities in which they are located. The Yeager Airport, for example, supports $174 million each year in economic activity, and employs more than 1,800 people. The crumbling state of this airport needs to be addressed not only for transportation security reasons—thousands of Americans rely on it to support their families.
We know the gap in funding for maintaining our airports, and we know that a massive infrastructure bill is forthcoming. The GAIN coalition is excited to for the wave of infrastructure projects that will be made possible if that bill gets passed. We hope that as funds are earmarked and allocated, our airports are not forgotten. The Yeager Airport is simply one of thousands of airports that need attention and repair, one of many whose terminals are breaking down. We need to ensure that our air travel is the envy of the world, and the time is ripe to do so.