August 10, 2011
By Eric Halvorson
INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Funding problems at the Federal Aviation Administration aren’t over. They’re just delayed until after Congress ends its latest vacation. The temporary funding extension approved in Washington ended a partial shutdown of the agency and put 4,000 employees back to work.
Planners at Indianapolis International Airport appreciate the extension, as far as it goes. But, Marsha Stone, the chief financial officer of the Indianapolis Airport Authority says the short-term plan makes it difficult for people in her department. She says her team prefers to think long-term – say five or 10 years out. She says they can’t do that without some confidence in the availability of federal funds for projects around the airport property. Stone says they need a measure of certainty in funding, “just to know what will or will not be there so that we can put alternative plans in place.”
Indianapolis International – and the five smaller surrounding airports, the “reliever” airports – have projects that could be addressed by federal funds. A lot of the anticipated work would not be noticed by the average traveler walking through the terminal. Stone says most of the work would be on what they call the “air side,” outside the terminal.
“Air side projects are typically the higher priority projects for funding,” she says. “And, they’re generally not in terminals. Areas that produce revenue are generally not eligible for federal funding.”
Stone also would like to see Congress end the short-term thinking that has produced a series of funding extensions.
“It’s very frustrating,” she says. “We put a lot of effort into developing long-term plans. Airports are infrastructure assets that take a long-term view. So we have five and 10 year plans into the future. We even have a 30 year development plan that was just approved by our board earlier this year.”
Stone hopes Congress will give the funding issue more attention after it returns from the August break. It has to – since the extension provides funding only into the middle of September.