From the Director’s Desk: Federal Investment in MLI Projects
March 24, 2022
Earlier this month, I traveled to Washington, D.C. to engage our legislators about the importance of funding infrastructure projects and to hear about their legislative priorities. I make this trip each year but it was even more important to get valuable facetime with decision makers because maximizing federal investment is one of my goals for Project GATEWAY. During my conversations, I shared our challenges and needs, and provided clear direction on how legislators can support aviation to ensure the industry is healthy and thriving.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) that was recently passed designated $25 billion to airports. That includes both formula-based funding and competitive grants. We announced late 2021 that MLI will receive $2.86 million annually as part of the formula-based funding. My focus will be pushing for discretionary investment out of the $5 billion pool of competitive grant money designated for airport terminal facilities.
We started planning for the terminal renovations before we knew there was an opportunity for substantial federal investment. The amount of work we’ve already completed puts us ahead of the game from other airports seeking the same competitive funds.
When we sat down with legislators, we explained our facility’s greatest areas of concern that will be addressed with this renovation project. Beyond the obvious modernization that will give our nearly 40-year-old terminal better form and function, we will use the opportunity to address issues around access. Our facility will exceed ADA standards, support families with nursing suites and companion care facilities, and overall ensure underrepresented groups have improved access to the airport.
This extends to looking at bus service to and from the airport, for employees, tenants and passengers. Public transportation is becoming increasingly important with the cost of gas rapidly rising. My goal is to work with MetroLINK to make sure transportation to the airport is easy, predictable, safe and convenient – goals I know the team at MetroLINK shares.
Aside from talking about how MLI would use the grant money, many discussions during my time in D.C. centered on how the government plans to distribute the $25 billion. It’s a big job and just like everywhere else, government officials have been challenged with the impact of COVID – many government offices are still closed or working hybrid schedules, there are open positions (as with every industry) and early retirements. In short: the aid is there but there’s no one to administer it.
As we are mere months away from starting construction for Project GATEWAY, I am keenly interested to understand how the money we have been appropriated, and the money we will be competing for, will find its way to the Quad Cities, and in what timeframe. I will be keeping a close eye on this particular issue and staying in communication with legislators to get progress updates.
We are seeking letters of support from local mayors and other elected officials to demonstrate to the FAA that our project is worthy of investment to support our region’s growth. In speaking with just some of our local mayors already, they are enthusiastically ready to support the airport. It’s a fantastic demonstration of how our bi-state communities pull together to better the entire region. These conversations aren’t the first we’ve had with legislators and elected officials on this topic and they will continue over the next several years. I’ll be sure to update you on the latest developments over the coming months.