Grants for Airports

The first airports in the country were built with private funds. No federal funds were spent in building and operating civil airports or landing fields in the years before 1934. The Air Commerce Act of 1926 promoted air commerce and with airmail service rapidly expanding, aircraft operations, including pilot and mechanic licensing were prioritized. However, the Act still prohibited the expenditure of federal money for building new airports or for their maintenance. It was only during the Great Depression when the Federal government started to provide federal grants for airports in order to stimulate the economy. The Federal Airport Act of 1946 further provided for the construction of more airports around the country through its $500 million grants to be spent over the next seven years.

Today, more than $1.3 billion has been made available for airport improvement projects through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds. These federal grants for airports can be used to start much needed improvements and upgrades in air traffic control systems and facilities.

In Washington State, the Department of Transportation (WSDOT) is focusing their allotment for federal grants for airports in the preservation of state’s existing 138 public airfields. This grant program has been able to leverage a great amount of funds totaling to millions using state and local match counterparts and contributions. The WSDOT has been able to award more than $960,000 to 38 airports around the state to fund different improvement and maintenance projects.

This federal grant is available to any municipality, including any federally recognized tribe in the state, with its own open and for public use airport. To be considered for the grant, the project should arise from the Airport Layout Plan or Capital Improvement Plan. A copy of this plan should be submitted to the WSDOT. To be included in the application are information that the WSDOT will need in order to set up a webpage where people can access information about the project.

The maximum amount for a single grant is $250,000 with WSDOT requiring local counterpart funds amounting to 5% of the grant, which can be in the form of either volunteer labor and materials or cash. Eligible projects include those that involve safety, security, maintenance, planning and pavement of the airfield.

Grant applications and other pertinent documents to the grant can be viewed and downloaded at the WSDOT Grant website. WSDOT imposes one condition before becoming eligible for the grant – sponsors must update their information on the Airport Information System database.

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