So what can be done to avoid this dreadful scenario? That's the focus of a comparison study called "Addressing Future Capacity Needs in the U.S. Aviation System" from a nonpartisan Washington think tank, the Eno Center for Transportation. Eno looked at six major airports and concluded that a failure to immediately expand capacity could have dire economic effects not only regionally, but also nationwide, given that the U.S. aviation system is responsible for 4.9 to 5.2 percent of the nation's GDP and about 10 million jobs.
"Over the next decade, delays in our aviation system have the potential to inhibit travel and economic growth, and current federal policies are not structured to effectively address anticipated capacity issues," Eno Center President and CEO Joshua Schank noted. "In our paper, Eno looks at specific airports and the various ways they are capacity constrained, and proposes four policy recommendations that could reduce delays and enable greater economic benefits."
Those recommendations include the following:
- Restructuring the federal Airport Improvement Program to target investment
- Creating a new federal discretionary grant program to address improvements and innovation in airport operations
- Accelerating the delivery of the $40 billion NextGen air-traffic-control modernization program by exploring the idea of separating the air-traffic control and safety functions of the FAA
- Relaxing current federal restrictions on the airport Passenger Facility Charge to enable each airport to raise additional funds for investment
Dow said that Americans would experience firsthand how the U.S. transportation system had fallen from its pedestal as the envy of the world. "We've fallen way behind our global competitors," he lamented. "It has become clear that the federal government can no longer care for our infrastructure on its own. In releasing these studies, the message we are sending is that every option needs to be on the table."
Neither study put a figure on just how much money was needed to solve the congestion problem. Both indicated that Congress remained the biggest roadblock to any progress in speeding up aviation improvements.
The 10 Worst Airports of The Future
(airport -- year when every day will feel like the Wednesday before Thanksgiving)
- John F. Kennedy (New York) -- 2022
- Orlando International -- 2022
- Chicago Midway -- 2024
- McCarran International (Las Vegas) -- 2025
- Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International -- 2026
- Honolulu International -- 2026
- San Diego International -- 2027
- Miami International -- 2029
- Tampa International -- 2031
- Portland International -- 2032