The $40B Infrastructure Project You Haven't Heard Of
As the country debates the future of highways and transit, a major investment in air is planned.
Earlier this month, Governing named NextGen – the federal government’s high-tech plan to upgrade the country’s flight system from one based on radar to satellites – as one of its top five “in limbo” transportation projects.
The project has huge benefits. That switch, along with other technological improvements, would allow for more efficient flight paths, reduced fuel consumption, smaller carbon emissions, and less flight delays. But it comes with a high price tag: FAA estimates that the infrastructure cost of NextGen through 2025 is $15 billion to $20 billion, plus another $19 billion for the cost of equipping airplanes with the requisite technology.
That instantly makes it one of the country's most expensive infrastructure projects, and it's one many people, in a world where the debate about transportation often focuses on highways and transit, often overlook.
It's an issue state and local leaders may be wise to monitor. NextGen advocates note that air travel is a linchpin of the economy, and modernization could greatly improve it. Meanwhile, since localities manage most airports, any substantial changes would affect their operations.
The much-respected Eno Center for Transportation drew a packed crow of transportation officials, including former Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, to an event revealing its newest study on NextGen.
Eno’s new report – available here – provides insight into how the effort might be funded and explains the potential costs and benefits. Among the obstacles facing NextGen, according to Eno, are:
- the difficulty experts have had quantifying its potential benefit
- the hesitance by airlines to shoulder the costs associated with modernization
- the limited federal funds to pay for the project
- the lack of political leadership in prioritizing NextGen
- the FAA’s difficult history with modernization (in the 1980s, modernization was estimated to cost $12 billion and be ready in 10 years).
Read the full report below.
Join the Discussion
After you comment, click Post. You can enter an anonymous Display Name or connect to a social profile.
Will Florida Gay Couples Really Be Able to Marry on January 6?2 days ago
Somerville, Mass., Will Issue 'Scarlett Letters' for Unshoveled Sidewalks2 days ago
The Week in Public Finance: Traffic Cam Drama, Retiree Healthcare and Another D.C. Shoutout2 days ago
Supreme Court Rules Arizona Must Issue Driver's Licenses to Immigrants2 days ago
The Woman Obama Picked to Improve Police Relationships with the Public2 days ago
Ferguson's Inequality Fight Moves into the Courtroom2 days ago