A new bill proposed by Sen. Kyrsten Sinema aims to speed up the amount of time it takes to finish airport projects by allowing airports to offer financial incentives to companies who finish ahead of time and under budget.
The bill would allow airports to use up to $1 million from Airport Improvement Program funds to offer incentives to contractors to finish projects early. The hope is those incentives would also lead to cost savings as well as improved airport efficiency and capacity.
Right now, airports are not allowed to use those funds to offer such incentives.
“Incentivizing quick completion of airport construction ensures Arizona’s aviation system can continue to grow, create jobs, and fuel our state’s economy,” said Sinema, ranking member on the Aviation and Space Subcommittee in a statement to The Arizona Republic.
In February, Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) proposed a similar bill in the House.
What this would mean for Sky Harbor and Mesa Gateway
Both Phoenix Sky Harbor International and Phoenix-Mesa Gateway airports told The Republic they are supportive of the proposal.
“There currently is no mechanism to incentivize contractors to finish early (saving money), and only penalties for being late,” said Ryan Smith, spokesman for Mesa Gateway Airport, when contacted by email.
Sky Harbor echoed that statement.
“If Sky Harbor had the flexibility to incentivize a contractor to complete a project early in anticipation of a major community event, it could make a major difference in the quality of the experience of visitors to Arizona from around the world,” said spokeswoman Julie Rodriguez.
Rodriguez said Phoenix doesn’t have the challenge that many other airports face in navigating construction windows that are limited by weather. But, construction that causes delays at other airports can have a ripple effect on operations at Sky Harbor.
“The ability for another major hub airport to expedite construction ahead of the winter season could benefit Phoenix, as we welcome winter visitors to our sunny climate,” she said.
In an emailed statement, Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego also expressed support for the legislation.
“While airfield improvements increase efficiency and capacity when completed, their construction timeline can bring disruptions to everyday operations. Creating greater incentive for contractors to complete projects more quickly can lessen this impact,” Gallego said.
If passed, the bill would not affect any current projects. Smith said incentives would need to be worked into the bidding process of future construction.
Sinema and Young introduced the bill to the Senate on Monday. So even if the bill gains support in both chambers of Congress, it could take a while before it becomes a law.