The House yesterday approved a six-month extension of Federal Aviation Administration funding under suspension of the rules, which would keep the airport construction grants program and other programs funded through Sept. 30.
Current funding authorizations expire at the end of this month. The legislation now moves on to the Senate.
If approved by the Senate, the extension would lengthen to two years the amount of time that the FAA and its programs have been funded by stopgap measures.
Lawmakers and airport advocates have argued that the series of extensions is causing uncertainty for airports that is detrimental to their ability to formulate capital plans.
"In general, runways, terminals, taxiways, and most airport infrastructure projects take five or 10 years, so airports need the financing tools now to lay the groundwork for the future," said Greg Principato, president of the Airports Council International-North America.
The measure approved by the House would authorize a total of $3.9 billion of funding for airport capital grants for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30. Previously, the FAA's capital grants program was authorized to receive $1.95 billion from Oct. 1, 2008, through the end of this month.
"For its part, Congress must pass a reauthorization bill with robust funding for FAA capital accounts this year," James L. Oberstar, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said yesterday during a separate hearing on FAA modernization.
A multi-year funding package for the FAA was approved earlier this month by Oberstar's committee. That bill would authorize $70 billion for the FAA's capital programs and $16.2 billion for the airport improvement program between fiscal years 2009 and 2012. Airports use AIP funds to supplement other funding sources such as bond revenue.
The bill also would raise the cap on passenger facilities charges to $7 from $4.50, making it possible for airport bond issuers to generate more income with which they could back debt. The committee found that the increased cap would generate as much as $1.1 billion of added revenue for airports each year. PFCs are used most often by larger airports to repay bonds.
Similar proposals have been stalled mostly by Republican opposition for the past year and a half.