By Victoria Skinner, originally published by The Center Square. The Center Square is a project of the 501(c)(3) Franklin News Foundation, headquartered in Chicago.
(The Center Square) – The Asheville Regional Airport is set to receive $15 million in federal funds to replace its aging air traffic control tower as part of a $5 billion Airport Terminals Program included in the infrastructure law approved by Congress last year.
The Federal Aviation Administration announced a series of grants on Thursday for “Building Better Airport Terminals” that includes the first $1 billion in funding for more than 90 projects across the country.
The $15 million grant for Asheville Regional is one of only two grants awarded to build a completely new air traffic control tower; the other is in Peoria, Ill.
The project will replace an existing 61-year-old air traffic control tower with a new, expanded facility, work that will be in conjunction with another project to expand and renovate the existing terminal, according to a White House statement.
“It’s going to help make air travel safer, more accessible and more efficient,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said. “And it’s going to create a lot of good jobs in communities of all sizes.”
The $5 billion for terminal improvements is part of a broader overall budget of $20 billion for airport improvements in the infrastructure law. The $1 billion in funding announced Thursday represents the first round of grants for the five-year terminal improvement program.
Buttigieg said the government received 658 applications from 532 airports, which illustrated the “very competitive program” is needed to address improvements that traditionally have been funded by municipalities and airlines.
“I don’t think anybody could look at airports across America today and say that the existing system and the existing levels of funding had been adequate,” Buttigieg said. “America is a country that brought the modern aviation age to the world. And yet around the world, in most rankings of airport quality, not one of our airports ranks among the top 25. That’s something that we have to change.”
The grants covered a variety of different terminal improvements, with 76 to increase sustainability, 73 to improve access for those with disabilities, and 47 to improve access to disadvantaged populations and rural airports.
The terminal improvement funding comes about a month after federal officials announced $518 million for 416 grants for the second part of the 2022 Airport Improvement Program, which also provided funds for several North Carolina airports.
Those funds included $14.9 million for the Charlotte/Douglas International Airport to construct a new taxiway; $3.7 million for the Concord/Padgett Regional Airport to widen its runway, expand the apron and install new runway lighting; and $1.7 million for the Fayetteville Regional Airport to expand its terminal.
North Carolina’s grant total of $20.3 million from the Airport Improvement Program was the most in the region, outpacing South Carolina’s $18.9 million, Virginia’s $3.5 million, and Tennessee’s $475,000.
The Raleigh-Durham International Airport received $1.3 million for an environmental study in the first part of the AIP program.