Courtesy of Louisville International Airport

The U.S. Department of Transportation announced on Friday that the Federal Aviation Administration would award a $11.2 million infrastructure grant to the Louisville Regional Airport Authority, which will mostly fund repairs and improvement to runways at the Louisville International Airport.

In the announcement, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said the grant would help the city’s airport “keep pace with rising demand and help ensure that Louisville is well positioned for the future.”

“Louisville International is vitally important to the region,” stated Chao. “This airport is an economic engine that creates jobs and keeps commerce moving. This grant will fund a number of projects that are critical to maintaining the safest and most efficient operations at the airport, while creating room for future growth.”

According to the press release and the grant notice on the department’s website, the grant will go toward the following infrastructure improvements:

  • $1.6 million to replace concrete slabs on one the runways
  • $675,000 to replace concrete slabs on a taxiway used by aircraft to enter and exit the runway
  • $2.2 million to reconstruct 55,000 square yards of terminal apron pavement, where aircraft park
  • $2.2 million to install a new lighting system on two taxiways

The press release also states that $4.5 million of the grant is “for land for future airport development.” The grant notice mentions that it would fund reimbursement for the airport’s previous acquisitions of two 131-acre and 19-acre plots of land needed for airport development.

Karen Scott, the interim executive director of the Louisville Regional Airport Authority, confirmed to IL that these funds were reimbursement for the 131 acres of land acquired by the airport in its major expansion during the 1990s. Scott also said the infrastructure work funded by the grant would likely begin in April of next year and last through that fall, though the repairs would not affect the volume of the airport’s flights during that time.

Chao — a Louisville resident and the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — gave a speech in Louisville in July pitching the privatization of the FAA, saying this would alleviate congestion and delays at important aviation hubs such as Louisville. As a cabinet member in the administration of President Donald Trump, she also touted their general plan to streamline permitting processes and use $200 billion to leverage public-private partnerships for infrastructure projects, hoping to send a specific legislative package to Congress in the fall.

While that legislative package has not yet formed, Democratic Congressman John Yarmuth of Louisville has blasted the existing budget proposal of House Republicans, saying it would cut transportation programs by $254 billion, or 25 percent of total transportation funding over 10 years. In a statement responding to Friday’s announcement, Yarmuth said that it was great to see a strong federal investment in the local airport so it could continue its recent upgrades, “but we also have a massive list of unmet infrastructure needs here in Louisville and across the country, and we need the President and Congress to tackle that challenge head on.”

“I am committed to making major investments in our roads, bridges, air travel, and other needs, and I continue my call for Congress and the White House to work together on a major, bipartisan infrastructure initiative that will create good-paying jobs, generate economic growth, and keep us competitive in the global market,” stated Yarmuth.

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Joe Sonka
Joe Sonka is a staff writer at Insider Louisville focusing on government, politics, education and public safety. He is a former news editor and staff writer at LEO Weekly and has also freelanced for The Nation and ThinkProgress. He has won first place awards from the Louisville Metro chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists in the categories of Health Reporting, Enterprise Reporting, Government/Politics, Minority/Women’s Affairs Reporting, Continuing Coverage and Best Blog. Email him at [email protected]