FAA announces millions in new airport funding for Maryland, Virginia

Dulles International Airport will rebuild one of its four runways and BWI Marshall Airport will get additional funding to purchase land in the airport’s noise zone to ease noise complaints — two big projects given the green light through new federal funding.

The U.S. Transportation Department announced Tuesday a total of $1.2 billion in new grant funding for “critical transportation infrastructure projects” across all 50 states.

Overall, airports in Maryland and Virginia will see more than $34 million in new infrastructure funding — $18.4 million in Virginia and $15.9 million in Maryland.

In addition to the projects at Dulles and BWI Marshall, regional airports across Maryland and Virginia are set to get millions in new funding for projects ranging from extending runways to fixing up taxiway lighting and signs. Among the new projects being funded is the reconstruction of one of two runways at the Ocean City Municipal Airport.

Kirk Shaffer, the associated administrator of airports at the Federal Aviation Administration, told WTOP that the new funding “is obvious evidence of the FAA’s commitment to infrastructure, especially critical aviation infrastructure across the country. You’ll see runways and taxiways and ramps and lighting projects — all focused on safety and capacity and security of airports in the United States.”

At Dulles, a big hub for international flights, nearly $12.3 million in new funding will go toward reconstructing one of the airport’s four runways — three of which date back to 1962, when the airport first opened.

“A runway, like any other structure of that nature, has an expected useful life, and once that life has expired, so to speak, we have to rebuild those structures, otherwise they start to deteriorate,” Schaffer said.

Other projects in Virginia include:

  • About $1.3 million for Virginia Tech Montgomery Executive Airport in Blacksburg to extend the runway.
  • $606,412 for Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport to improve the terminal building, reconstruct airfield guidance signs, and reconstruct runway and taxiway lighting.
  • $148,000 for Tazewell County Airport in Richlands to reconstruct runway lighting.
  • About $4.1 million for Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport to reconstruct airfield guidance signs and reconstruct runway and taxiway lighting.

At BWI, the new funding will support noise mitigation efforts. The airport is getting $665,000 to purchase land in the airport’s noise zone.

The airport, located in Anne Arundel County, has seen a wave of complaints from neighbors over airplane noise since flight patterns were shifted as part of the FAA’s NextGen initiative.

The biggest project made possible through the new funding is nearly $5.6 million to extend the runway at St. Mary’s County Regional Airport in Leonardtown.

Other projects in Maryland include:

  • About $1.6 million for Easton/Newnam Field to construct an aircraft safety area and remove obstruction markings and lighting.
  • About $2.6 million for Ocean City Municipal Airport to reconstruct the runway.
  • $884,646 for Tipton Airport in Odenton to rehabilitate a building.
  • $189,480 for Bay Bridge Airport in Stevensville to rehabilitate the runway.
  • $232,222 for Carroll Country Regional Airport/Jack B. Poage Field in Westminster to reconstruct the runway.
  • About $4.1 million for Greater Cumberland Regional Airport in Wiley Ford to rehabilitate the runway.

The new funding announced Tuesday through the Airport Improvement Program is in addition to hundreds of millions of dollars in funding approved by Congress last spring through the CARES Act to keep airports operating and replace lost revenue from the coronavirus pandemic.

Though air travel has plummeted over the past several months because of the pandemic, there is a silver lining for airport construction projects: Fewer planes and travelers often means accelerated construction schedules, Shaffer said.

The silver lining with low air traffic: It’s easier to do big construction and infrastructure projects.

“By accelerating those projects and completing them during this downturn in traffic, ultimately that will present less operational delay and congestion and interference when traffic does return,” Shaffer said.

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