The Indianapolis Airport Authority received the largest chunk of federal dollars in the nation from a recent round of grant distributions this week.
The $56.3 million grant is also the largest in the airport’s history.
The money comes from the sixth and final round of this year’s Airport Improvement Program from the Federal Aviation Administration, which allocated $431.8 million in grants across the country to support sustainable airport infrastructure.
Indianapolis beat out major hubs like Dallas and Detroit, which each received about $35 million. IAA Executive Director Mario Rodriguez, who sat on President Joe Biden’s Department of Transportation transition team, attributes the sizeable allocation to years of lobbying work.
“D.C. views us as important and they’ve put their money where their mouth is,” he said in an interview with IndyStar Wednesday.
The money will fund the initial construction phase of one of Indianapolis International Airport’s runways, and the initial construction and electrical phase of a taxiway.
The pandemic-influenced explosion in online shopping prompted the IAA to look at this runway, which is used by both commercial airlines and FedEx flights. Though it’s still serviceable, Rodriguez said the IAA wants to reconstruct it in anticipation of ever-increasing demand.
This is a $72.8 million project, according to the airport authority’s 2022 capital improvement budget. The airport initially expected to fund half of it with local debt funding, but with the federal money covering three quarters of the project, some of that local money can be reinvested into customer service costs in the terminals, Rodriguez said.
The project is anticipated to create about 2,700 jobs, he said.
In a previous round, the IAA received about $960,000 for the purchase of zero-emissions vehicles, adding two 25-foot electric shuttle buses and charging stations to its existing fleet of 9. The IAA will be able to purchase another two electric vehicles from the Volkswagen Settlement, creating a fleet of 13, which Rodriguez said will make it the largest in the country.
Separately, the airport is receiving a federal grant of $11 million to bolster its capacity to allow planes to remain parked on the airfield overnight, which the IAA says helps its goal of adding more nonstop flights and commercial carriers.
The airport has added 21 new nonstop flights in 2021 alone, and two new carriers, Sun Country and Contour.
In total, the IAA has received $71 million in federal grants this year, a far cry from the $15 million it received in Rodriguez’s first year as executive, in 2015.
“We’ve been working on this for a very, very long time to get the number up to this point,” he said.