Durbin Discusses Impact Of FAA Reauthorization Act On Decatur Airport And Additional Federal Funding For Local Infrastructure Projects

DECATUR – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today joined Mayor Julie Moore Wolfe to discuss the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act of 2024, which was recently signed into law by President Biden. The legislation, among other things, provides increased investment for Essential Air Service (EAS) program airports, like Decatur Airport. The EAS program was established to ensure that smaller communities maintain a sufficient level of air service.

Durbin also discussed additional federal funding he has helped secure for other transportation and infrastructure projects in Decatur.

“The FAA Reauthorization Act addresses pressing issues for passengers at Decatur Airport and across our national aviation system,” Durbin said. “The EAS program was put in place to guarantee that small communities can maintain a sufficient level of air service. The legislation that was signed into law by President Biden earlier this month includes a more than 111 percent increase in EAS funding while imposing penalties for EAS providers that try to reduce or terminate service.”

“We can’t thank Senator Durbin enough for always being a champion for Decatur in so many areas,” Decatur Mayor Julie Moore Wolfe said. “This support for the Decatur Airport and many of our transportation-related projects will greatly improve mobility for residents and visitors.”

The Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act of 2024, would authorizes the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) to levy penalties for EAS providers that attempt to alter the agreed upon contracts for service to these communities. Several additional Durbin priorities are also part of the legislation, including:

  • Addressing the air traffic controller shortage: Requires FAA to set its hiring target as the maximum number of controllers that the air traffic controller academy can train. It also requires that FAA implement improved staffing standards developed with the labor workforce to close staffing gaps. 
  • Airport grant funding: Increases annual funding for Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grants for airports from $3.3 billion to $4.4 billion. More than 80 Illinois airports benefit from this funding through both entitlements and competitive awards, and Illinois routinely receives sizeable grants from the program. Last July, Decatur received $961,000 to improve the airport’s lighting and taxiway signage through AIP.
  • Aviation workforce grant funding:  Expands this funding across three grant programs, each authorized at $20 million per year for education and recruitment of aviation maintenance, pilot, and manufacturing workers. The aviation industry in Illinois generates more than $95 billion in economic activity across 500,000 jobs.

Durbin also discussed federal funding he has helped secure for other transportation and infrastructure projects in Decatur, including $16 million in USDOT Railroad Crossing Elimination Grant funding to improve rail connectivity by supporting ongoing construction activities to upgrade Brush College Road. The funding will upgrade 1.21 miles of Brush College Road, create a new grade separation structure, permanently close two existing highway-rail grade crossings on Norfolk Southern and Illinois Central Railroad rights-of-way, and create pedestrian grade crossings.

Earlier this year, Durbin secured $2.5 million in federal funding through Congressionally Directed Spending (CDS)—more commonly known as an earmark—in the Fiscal Year 2024 (FY24) government funding bill for the City of Decatur to implement a microtransit pilot program. The program will use EVs to provide cost-efficient transit services to disadvantaged residents and fill geographical and schedule gaps in current transit service.

In addition to the FY24 earmark, Durbin previously secured FY23 and FY22 earmarks for Decatur worth $5 million. A project to construct a pedestrian and bike path on US-51 to connect more areas to downtown Decatur received $1.5 in FY23 while $3.5 million was delivered in FY22 for Macon County to replace two structurally deficient segments of the Reas Bridge over Lake Decatur.