MARY SCHUERMANN KUHLMAN
INDIANAPOLIS – This is Infrastructure Week, and there are many ideas on the table for how to fix deteriorating infrastructure in Indiana and other states. The White House and congressional leaders are expected to meet again next week to hash out a proposed $2 trillion infrastructure improvement plan.
There’s been some talk about increasing the Passenger Facility Charge to invest in airport modernization, which Sharon Pinkerton, senior vice president for legislative policy at Airlines for America, argued against. She explained while airport revenues are soaring, the Highway Trust Fund is not solvent.
“Congress should look at funding for highways and bridges that we know are in great need of repair very differently from the way they view airport investment,” Pinkerton said. “It’s a very different system than the highway system, which is underfunded right now and needs more investment.”
With a $7 billion surplus in the Aviation Trust Fund, Pinkerton said there’s no need to raise taxes on passengers. Others counter that lifting the federal cap on Passenger Facility Charges would help airports invest in their own facilities.
According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, 13% of Indiana’s nearly 97,000 miles of public roads are in poor condition, and 6% of the state’s bridges, about 1,200, are structurally deficient. Pinkerton said meanwhile, the state’s airports are thriving.
“It’s important for a place like the Indianapolis airport, that might not necessarily be one of the big hubs, to be able to keep costs down for passengers,” she said. “We’re willing to continue to invest in airports. We ask in return, though, that they don’t leave passengers holding the bag for increased taxes.”
She noted the Indianapolis Airport Authority is set to receive nearly $20 million in federal and state grants to support a variety of projects; the Evansville Regional Airport is undergoing a $20 million renovation, and work to extend the Huntingburg airport’s runway is slated to start next year.