May 19, 2021

Duckworth, Cornyn, Garamendi, Babin Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Expand Investments in Airport Modernization Projects


[WASHINGTON, DC] — U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and John Cornyn (R-TX) today introduced bipartisan legislation to improve airport infrastructure by allowing airport projects to access cheaper public capital financing. The TIFIA for Airports Act would expand eligibility for Transportation and Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) credit assistance to state and local airport projects—including passenger terminals, runways and related facilities—a change that would improve and accelerate project delivery for state and local jurisdictions across the country. The bill also extends Buy America protections to eligible airport projects that receive TIFIA financing. U.S. Representatives John Garamendi (D-CA-03) and Brian Babin (R-TX-36) introduced companion legislation today in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“Modernizing our nation’s aging airport infrastructure will help create good-paying jobs and spur economic development, while improving safety and reliability,” Duckworth said. “I’m proud to be working across the aisle with Senator Cornyn, as well as Congressman Garamendi and Congressman Brian Babin in the House, to make sure major airport improvement projects, like O’Hare Modernization, maximize taxpayers’ Return on Investment by reducing costs and improving project deliverability.”

“In 2020, multiple Texas airports were among the busiest in the world,” said Cornyn. “By making the TIFIA program’s more than $70 billion in untapped lending capacity available to public airport projects, we can modernize our infrastructure to meet Texans’ needs, improve national security, and ensure funding already on the books is being used.”

“The country that invented air travel should not have to look to other countries’ airports with envy. Congress must invest in modernizing our airports to better meet the traveling public’s needs and address public health concerns like coronavirus,” said Garamendi. “Our legislation would unlock some $2 billion in low-interest federal financing for airport modernization projects across California and the nation, including climate resilience projects. Now more than ever, Americans deserve airports that are as efficient, safe, and clean as possible.”

“Cutting bureaucratic red tape and investing in our nation’s infrastructure is critical to ensuring a strong and resilient economy for years to come,” said Babin. “I’m proud to join Rep. Garamendi, Senator Duckworth, and Senator Cornyn in introducing this bill that will inevitably expedite airport infrastructure projects in Texas, and around the country, and will enhance the travel experience for all Americans.”

Since 1998, TIFIA has provided billions of dollars’ worth of financing for critical surface transportation projects related to highways, transit, intermodal freight and port access throughout the country. However, airport projects have traditionally been limited in access to TIFIA funding, with terminal and runway projects cut off from this financing tool. Limiting major airports’ access to TIFIA as a lending tool dramatically reduces financing options for states and local jurisdictions, diminishing the quality of services for approximately 2.5 million daily U.S. airline passengers.

In January, a Department of Transportation study that Senator Duckworth requested found that a federal airport credit program highlighted the benefits of extending the TIFIA program to airport-related projects “because it could provide airports a lower-cost and more flexible option for financing portions of such projects.” The report also concluded that such a program is feasible.

Duckworth raised this issue when she met with U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg this January, as well as when she met with DOT Deputy Secretary Polly Trottenberg in March.