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As demand for air travel grows, this administration through the U.S. Department of Transportation is partnering with state and local governments to invest in our airport infrastructure.

Thanks to a robust economy and lower ticket prices, more people can afford to fly to their destinations. Newly released airline traffic estimates show 78.1 million passengers flew on U.S. airlines in October 2019. That’s a 4.4% increase from the previous year. 

To keep pace with the wear and tear on our nation’s airports, this administration has awarded more than $10.8 billion in Airport Improvement Program grants since January 2017 to more than 2,000 U.S. airports to improve safety and infrastructure.

Over the last two and a half years, the department has delivered more than $255.3 million to airports across the state of Michigan, including:

►Detroit Metro Airport, which received $33.82 million to reconstruct a runway and reconstruct a taxiway.

►Wayne County’s Willow Run Airport, which received $10 million to reconstruct a runway.

►Flint Bishop International Airport, which received more than $8.7 million to construct a taxiway, rehabilitate a runway and reconstruct runway lighting.

►Kent County’s Gerald R. Ford International Airport, which received $5 million to rehabilitate its terminal building and $11 million to rehabilitate an apron.

More than half of all Airport Improvement Program funds go toward constructing or rehabilitating runways, taxiways and aprons. Federal Aviation Administration pavement standards help protect this investment by ensuring pavements last as long as possible.

Airfield pavement needs regular maintenance to seal cracks and repair damage, which increases the time between major rehabilitation cycles.  Runway pavement in a state of good maintenance minimizes any damage to aircraft and avoids unnecessary additional costs for major rehabilitation. Efficient airport surfaces mean more on-time flights.

The Department of Transportation not only supports infrastructure through funding — we are delivering much needed improvements more quickly. DOT is working hard to streamline the approval process, cut unnecessary red tape and reduce unnecessary, duplicative regulations that do not contribute to safety.  

These investments and reforms are especially timely because the U.S. economy is the strongest it has been in years, with gross domestic product growth of 2.8% in the first half of 2019.  Employers have added more than 6 million net new jobs since January 2017. The unemployment rate is still a remarkable 3.6% — the lowest in 50 years.

For the first time in many years, personal income is growing — rising 3.2% during the past 12 months. Nominal average hourly wage gains had not reached 3% in over 10 years. 

Aviation is an important part of that growth. U.S. civil aviation supports more than 5% of U.S. GDP; $1.6 trillion in economic activity; and nearly 11 million jobs.

The completion of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement adds another boost to this growth.  It has been 25 years since the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement, so an update of our trade policies with Mexico and Canada was long overdue.

The USMCA is a bipartisan agreement that can help deliver a win for America’s farmers, ranchers, employers and workers. And it will help address long-standing trade imbalances by opening up markets for American products and services across all sectors of our economy.

Taken together, these investments are vital to helping our country keep pace with economic growth by moving people and goods faster, cheaper and more efficiently.  That means a stronger economy, more job creation and a better quality of life for everyone.

Elaine L. Chao is the U.S. secretary of transportation.

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