For at least the second time in three years, Gov. Tom Corbett is providing funding for enhancements and upgrades to 19 of the state’s more than 130 public-use airports.
The State Transportation Commission approved the funding and will be distributed through Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s aviation development program.
“Airports contribute to our communities’ economies and create thousands of jobs for Pennsylvanians,” Corbett said. “This state support will help the airports continue operating safely and ensure that they can continue to meet business demands.”
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, these 19 airports all submitted project funding requests, sometimes years in advance, and once the scheduling for those projects become due, the department’s aviation development program will announce the grant and then put out a Request For Proposals alert to open bidding for the various projects.
The grants are funded from the state’s jet fuel tax, and the investments leverages $647,100 in local matching funds as authorized by the General Assembly.
Officials with Philadelphia International Airport didn’t submit a proposal for this round of grants, but the airport is on the cusp of embarking on an ambitious, multi-year, multibillion-dollar expansion and renovation.
It appears that size of airport and its individual needs also factored into the amount of funding it received.
For example, the lowest amount – $5,400 – went to Chester County’s New Garden Flying Field for the development of municipal hazard zoning ordinances, while the largest grant – $397,500 – went to the Allegheny County Airport. Officials there will use funds to acquire airfield maintenance equipment and to rehabilitate and upgrade the terminal building infrastructure and utilities.
Other airports to receive funding were McVille Airport in Armstrong County; Bedford County Airport; Reading Regional Airport in Berks County; John Murtha Johnstown Airport in Cambria County; Bellefonte Airport in Centre County; Lawrence Airport in Clearfield County; Bendigo Airport in Dauphin County; Jimmy Stewart Airport in Indiana County; Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport in Luzerne County; Bradford Regional Airport in McKean County; Finleyville Airpark in Washington County; Rostraver Airport in Westmoreland County and York Airport in York County.
Butler County and Mercer County has two airports each that received funding. Butler County Airport and the Butler Farm Show Airport received a grant, as did Mercer County’s Greenville Municipal Airport and Grove City Regional Airport.
The Jet Fuel Tax itself has come under fire, as the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association has resisted Corbett’s attempts to raise the tax in the governor’s latest budget.
According to AOPA, state legislators thwarted Corbett’s attempt at a 2 percent increase as included in the governor’s amended budget proposal; Corbett’s budget passed last month without inclusion of the 2 percent hike.
“While the measure may have been well intended to generate additional transportation revenue, the jet fuel increase was not, in our view, an effective or justified proposal in looking at the cumulative aviation tax picture in Pennsylvania,” said Mark Kimberling, AOPA director of state government affairs. “Especially given that our ongoing discussion in recent years with the legislature and local aviation stakeholders have been focused on the need to competitively reduce the cumulative state aviation tax liability, as Pennsylvania has been losing jobs and revenue to other states in the region for several years now.”
Corbett’s most recent funding announcement is similar to one the governor made in September 2011, in which 18 airports throughout the state received a combined $4 million in state funding and also utilized the jet fuel tax The 2011 grant leveraged $1.3 in matching local funds.
Airports in Allegheny County, Armstrong County, Blair County, Bucks County, Butler County, Chester County, Clearfield County, Crawford County, Cumberland County, Erie County, Jefferson County, Lebanon County, Lehigh County, McKean County, Mercer County, Northampton County and York County all received funding in 2011.
“Aviation provides nearly 5 percent of Pennsylvania’s jobs,” Corbett said at the time. “Investing in these improvements and safety measures helps those thousands of people do their jobs better, and will improve airport operations.”