Washington airport investment study reveals funding gap

A recently completed study supports the importance of state and federal grants to fund projects for preservation and capital improvement at Washington’s airports.

The Airport Investment Study estimates that the state’s 134 public-use airports will need $3.6 billion in projects during the next 20 years.

The Washington State Department of Transportation’s Airport Aid Program provides an average of $1.1 million in state airport grants per year.

During the 20-year study period the state grant program is forecasted to average $1.4 million per year. WSDOT’s share of the overall program need of $3.6 billion is more than $240 million, resulting in an average annual need of more than $12 million, state aviation officials said.

The study identifies some of the potential consequences of not funding capital needs at Washington state airports:

  • The state could experience a potential loss of $2 billion in economic output, 13,600 unrealized jobs and $74 million in uncollected tax revenue.
  • Airports would face negative impacts to facilities and operations, especially at smaller general aviation airports ineligible for federal funds.
  • Airport funding would focus on core infrastructure (e.g., runways and taxiways), while other critical infrastructure would likely be maintained and improved at reduced levels.

WSDOT and consultant CH2M Hill spearheaded the study to evaluate current statewide airport funding levels, determine the aviation system needs and identify potential gaps. WSDOT formed an advisory committee composed of a diverse group of aviation stakeholders to provide feedback on the study’s process and findings.

The advisory committee recommended a follow-on study that would explore solutions to address the gap between funding levels and airport needs. WSDOT anticipates initiating that study later this month.

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