Remarks Prepared for Delivery by
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao
Asheville, North Carolina
Friday, November 22, 2019
Thank you, Lew, for the introduction.
I am so delighted to have Senator Tillis here with us today. Senator Tillis has been a strong ally for North Carolina and infrastructure investment across the board. Thank you for coming.
Aerospace remains a critical sector of the U.S. economy. According to the FAA, U.S. civil aviation supports more than 5% of U.S. gross domestic product; $1.6 trillion in economic activity; and nearly 11 million jobs. And the infrastructure supporting this industry requires refurbishment and upgrades to continue to lead in safety and efficiency.
That is why we’re pleased today to announce the intent to award $500 million in supplemental funding for Airport Improvement Program grants at 117 airports in 48 states, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Projects range from improvements to runway safety, reconstruction, rehabilitation, expansion of airport aprons and runways, and the installation of aircraft rescue and fire services and runway lighting to boost airport safety.
These grants align with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s top three priorities. The first is: safety, which is always #1.
The second priority is rebuilding and refurbishing our country’s critical infrastructure.
And the third priority is preparing for the future by engaging with emerging technologies to address legitimate public concerns about safety, security, and privacy, without hampering innovation.
North Carolina is receiving AIP grants for 2 projects this round. The Asheville Regional Airport will receive $10 million for terminal rehabilitation. This makes Asheville one of 8 airports to receive $10 million or more in this round.
Additionally, the Coastal Carolina Regional Airport in New Bern will receive $4.9 million to construct a new Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting station.
This supplemental funding is in addition to the $3.18 billion in AIP funding allocated this year for airports across the United States. The full list can be found at FAA.gov.
The Administration has awarded over $10.8 billion in Airport Improvement Program grants since January 2017 to more than 2,000 U.S. airports. That $10.8 billion includes $294 million to North Carolina airports.
This notice of intent, combined with grants awarded in fiscal year 2019, will provide approximately 1,800 grants to 1,300 airports in 50 States and 9 territories, including Puerto Rico, Micronesia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. These funds, coupled with private sector investments, are improving aviation safety and reducing delays. These grants will be issued by the end of fiscal year 2021.
Airports throughout the U.S. have participated in the supplemental AIP grant program. Some of these grants are going to airports serving urban areas. Ronald Reagan National Airport serving Virginia and Washington, D.C. is receiving $3.5 million for airport apron rehabilitation. $10 million will go towards taxiway reconstruction at Philadelphia International. Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall will receive roughly $ 3.4 million for taxiway reconstruction and taxiway lighting rehabilitation. And $4 million has been awarded to Portland International for taxiway rehabilitation.
Rural America will also receive their fair share of resources in this round of grant awards. Newtok, Alaska will receive $8 million to construct a new airport. $5 million has been awarded for apron expansion at Ralph Wenz Field in Pinedale, Wyoming. And Ainsworth Regional in Nebraska will receive about $6.6 million for apron, runway, and taxiway rehabilitation.
AIP grants are designed to help improve the Nation’s aviation infrastructure and keep pace with the economic growth resulting from this Administration’s pro-growth policies. The unemployment rate across the country is at a 50-year low. Wages are rising for the first time in decades. And GDP continues to grow at a healthy rate.
A new trade agreement between the United States, Canada and Mexico will also further boost economic growth. This agreement is a much-needed overhaul of the 25-year-old North American Free Trade agreement. In fact, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) does more than any prior agreement to eliminate non-tariff barriers and unfair subsidies that work against America’s farmers, workers and employers.
In short, the economy is booming, and when the economy grows so does the aviation sector. Domestic and foreign airlines serving the U.S. carried a record one billion domestic and international passengers in 2018. This was a nearly 5% increase over the previous record high set in 2017. Air travel is only going to increase. And projects like those in Asheville and New Bern ensure that all communities have access to this critical resource.
So, congratulations Asheville and New Bern! As air travel grows and our airports expand to meet the demand, we look forward to continuing this partnership to ensure the safety and productivity of our Nation’s aviation transportation network.
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