Aug 11th 2017 | Posted in Transportation by Kristin Gordon

Continued advancements in technology and funding are steadily making the airport experience much more efficient and pleasurable. Before technology can occur, funding must be available, and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has been busy this year approving grants through their Airport Improvement Program (AIP) for transportation facilities ready to take on big and small projects.

Airports are entitled to a certain amount of AIP funding each year, based on passenger volume. If their capital project needs exceed their available entitlement funds, then the FAA can supplement their entitlements with discretionary funding. The U.S. Department of Transportation has been announcing hundreds of awards that the FAA has provided this year in airport infrastructure grants. Here are a few of the grant disbursements from Texas:

  • San Angelo Regional/Mathis Field in San Angelo, Texas, $3.1 million– Funding will be used to construct improvements to the taxiway system to enhance the safety of aircraft operations;
  • San Antonio International Airport in San Antonio, Texas, $6 million– Funds will be used to sound insulate homes near the airport;
  • Tyler Pounds Regional Airport in Tyler, Texas, $10.1 million– Funds will be used to repair a runway;
  • Austin-Bergstrom International Airport in Austin, Texas, $10.8 million– Funds will be used for the expansion of the terminal apron to provide additional space for aircraft parking;
  • Jack Brooks Regional Airport in Beaumont, Texas, $3.3 million– Funds will be used to reconstruct Taxiway Delta;
  • Fort Worth Alliance Airport in Fort Worth, Texas, $10 million– Funds will be used to extend runways;
  • El Paso International in El Paso, Texas, $11.6 million– Funds will be used to reconstruct a runway;
  • Valley International in Harlingen, Texas, $2.1 million– Funds will be used to extend the taxiway;
  • Laredo International Airport in Laredo, Texas, $6 million– Funds will be used to repair the air cargo apron and widen a taxiway;
  • East Texas Regional, Longview, Texas, $525,060– Funds will be used to update an airport master plan study.

To date this year, the U.S. Department of Transportation has announced more than 1,300 new grants to nearly 1,200 airports for a total of $2 billion. These grants will provide funds for 546 runway projects and 459 taxiway projects that are important to the safety and efficiency of the nation’s system of airports.

States set aside their own funding to keep transportation moving forward like the Kansas Airport Improvement Program (KAIP). Projects selected for this Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) program will receive a combined total of just over $4 million in fiscal year 2018. KAIP receives $5 million annually through the T-WORKS transportation program. KDOT’s Division of Aviation, which manages the program, considered 123 applications for projects totaling $31.7 million and 26 airports were chosen. Here are a few of them:

  • Greensburg– Grading and drainage for new airport, $1,080,000;
  • Lincoln– Grading and drainage for new airport, $720,000;
  • Salina– Design and pavement maintenance and repair, $428,990;
  • Hutchinson– Pavement maintenance and repair, $315,000;
  • Winfield /Arkansas City– Pavement maintenance and repair, $267,650.

Review the full list here.

Alaska’s state capital budget was approved in July for $1.4 billion. Nearly $130 million has been set aside for international airports and another $140 million is for rural airport improvements. The Alaska Department of Transporation plans to design work for an airport in Angoon, provide rehab work and improvements to the taxiway and runway in both Haines and Klawock and plan for Ketchikan’s airport and a land purchase at Sitka’s airport.

The Portland International Airport is planning a five-year, $1.3 billion project to revamp its terminal. This will be the first major reworking of Oregon’s airport since 1956. If airlines approve the plan this fall, construction would begin in 2018 and continue for five years. The terminal is one of several major construction projects in the works and includes:

  • A $215 million expansion of Concourse E and the reshuffling of airlines to make room for more gates.
  • The construction of a $67 million car wash and fuel station for rental cars.
  • A $265 million addition to the airport’s garage, which will add 2,400 parking spots for rental cars and free up 1,200 stalls for public parking.

Funding for airports is also improving technology, and $8.8 million was recently granted for an FAA approved national pilot project at the Northern Colorado Regional Airport for a virtual air-traffic control tower. The virtual tower uses cameras and radar that will be monitored and controlled at the airport, but not in a traditional control tower. It will be the first in the world to integrate video and radar to provide a comprehensive view of the airport surface and airspace to air traffic controllers working in a remote facility at the airport. The Colorado airport does not have a control tower and the mayors of Fort Collins and Loveland stressed in a letter to the FAA that this was a disadvantage and it might be hindering commercial service.

The $8.8 million project is being funded by the Colorado Division of Aeronautics which is supported solely by the collection of aviation fuel sales and excise taxes. Construction, testing and verification of the virtual tower will take about two years. A similar, privately developed system is being tested in Virginia.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is deploying facial recognition biometric exit technology to William P. Hobby International Airport in Houston for select flights from the airport. The technology is already being used at the Washington Dulles International Airport, George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, Chicago O’Hare International Airport and McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas.

Using the passenger list, CBP builds a flight specific photo gallery using photographs from the travel document the traveler provided to the airline. CBP then compares the live photo against the document photo in the gallery to ensure the traveler is the true bearer of the document. If the photo captured at boarding is matched to a U.S. passport, the traveler—having been confirmed as a U.S. citizen—is automatically determined to be out of scope for biometric exit purposes and the photo is discarded after a short period of time.

Passengers flying to or from George Bush Intercontinental Airport and William P. Hobby Airport can now navigate through the airports using a new wayfinding technology. The interactive map technology can easily be accessed from any device or browser, whether the device is mobile, desktop or tablet, without having to download a separate app on their smart device. The easy navigation tool provides transit path directions that will take the user from their originating point to their destination with the most direct and efficient path possible.

Both graphic and text directions are provided and each step of the path has turn-by-turn points listed, as well as the estimated walking time to the destination. Additionally, it offers searchable navigation, with location information and search terms for points of interest including gates, ground transportation, ticket kiosks, shops, restaurants, security checkpoints and more.


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