The vote comes after numerous delays in Congress, which included 23 temporary extensions and one partial shutdown of the FAA over the course of five years. The shutdown and uncertainty created by several short-term extensions affected hundreds of jobs and tens of millions of dollars of economic activity in Colorado.
“This long-overdue bill finally puts an end to needless partisan delays that had real and harmful effects for Colorado’s working families and our economy as a whole,” Bennet stated in a statement released to The Watch. “Finally, Congress has come together on a bill that will clear the way for critical construction projects and allow for long-term construction plans, reduce delays for travelers, improve safety and access to air travel, and provide a huge economic boost for Colorado’s airports and their surrounding communities.”
The bill authorizes funding for the FAA for the next four years, including $3.35 billion per year for the Airport Improvement Program, which provides grants to airports in Colorado to make needed improvements. In fiscal year 2011, Colorado received more than $26.7 million in improvement program grants that supported 19 airport infrastructure projects across the state. Colorado also received $5.6 million in state apportionment funding, more than $23 million in funds related to passenger volume, including $1 million for Telluride Regional Airport, and other formula funding for 50 separate airports, including general aviation airports.
“The passage of the FAA reauthorization bill will help with our long-term planning by providing financial funding for multi-year projects, which will enable us to serve our customers better,” Rich Nutall, manager of Telluride Regional Airport, said. “We still need to complete some finishing touches on our runway project. We also hope to replace our taxiway and de-icing pad with the funds this bill will authorize.”
The five-year bill will also give airports more consistency in funding and the opportunity to make long-term plans. Debra Wilcox of Beyond Aviation said, “It is extraordinarily important that we have long term certainty. Without certainty of funding from FAA, many projects are delayed or can’t be started at all, and airports and the local contractors are faced with increased costs, splitting projects between two seasons and other real inefficiencies. Higher costs are inevitable when the funding is uncertain. I am glad this bill will finally be enacted.”
The bill makes investments in the Next Generation Air Transportation System, a satellite-based GPS navigation system, which will reduce delays in Colorado and across the country.
The bill, which passed by a vote of 75-20, now goes to President Barack Obama’s desk for his signature.