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Airfield asphalt research included in bipartisan FAA reauthorization bill

UPDATED: 5.1.2024
NAPA joined the American Concrete Pavement Association (ACPA) and the Portland Cement Association (PCA) in sending a joint letter to the majority and minority leaders of each chamber of Congress.

House & Senate committee leaders have reached a bicameral agreement on the reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

The bill includes language that continues Airfield Asphalt Pavement Technology Program research projects at institutions of higher education, including at the National Center for Asphalt Technology (NCAT) at Auburn University.

“We’re excited to have the opportunity to work on studies through the AAPTP program,” said NCAT Director Randy West. “It’s been great to see how engaged all stakeholders have been in supporting research that will improve airfield pavement performance. Now it’s important to get these recommendations for specification improvements and new technologies into practice.”

The bipartisan agreement means the Senate FAA Reauthorization bill, which was passed out of committee in February, will be brought to the floor of the senate for approval.

“We are encouraged to see that Congress has continued to prioritize the AAPTP programs in the recent FAA reauthorization bill,” said NAPA Vice President for Engineering, Research, and Technology Richard Willis. “This program allows the asphalt industry to partner with the FAA to advance the priorities of the agency and industry in a meaningful way using cutting-edge research.”

“The FAA Reauthorization text released this past weekend ensures the Airfield Asphalt Pavement Technology Program can continue to operate as a critical research program for airfield pavement construction and maintenance and represents a lot of great work with NAPA allies in both the House and Senate over the past year,” said NAPA Vice President for Government Affairs Nile Elam. “The section is updated to ensure AAPTP research can leverage mix designs and methods that advance asphalt sustainability and resiliency, which will serve to improve airfield pavement lifespans beyond the mixes currently in use.”

The agreement, reached between the chairs and ranking members of the two Congressional transportation committees, comes after eight hearings and months of negotiations, including a rewritten section aimed at continuing research within the AAPTP:

“Section 744 of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 was amended to read as follows:


Using amounts made available under section 48102(a) of title 49, United States Code, the Secretary may carry out a program for the research and development of airfield pavement technologies under which the Secretary makes grants to, and enters into cooperative agreements with, institutions of higher education (as defined in section 101 of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1001)) and nonprofit organizations that—
(1) research concrete and asphalt pavement technologies that extend the life of airfield pavements;
(2) develop sustainability and resiliency guidelines to improve long-term pavement performance;
(3) develop and conduct training with respect to such airfield pavement technologies;
(4) provide for demonstration projects of such airfield pavement technologies; and
(5) promote the latest airfield pavement technologies to aid the development of safer, more cost effective, and more resilient and sustainable airfield pavements.

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, & Transportation, introduced the bill in June 2023, along with Ranking Member Ted Cruz (R-TX) and the leaders of the Aviation Subcommittee, Sens. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Jerry Moran (R-KS).

Cantwell and Cruz were joined by their counterparts in the House, Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman Sam Graves (R-MO) and Ranking Member Rick Larsen (D-WA), in a joint letter praising the FAA reauthorization legislation as it moves to the floor.

“Now more than ever, the FAA needs strong and decisive direction from Congress to ensure America’s aviation system maintains its gold standard, and we have reached a bipartisan, bicameral, comprehensive agreement to do just that.

“The American people deserve nothing less than the safest and most efficient aerospace system in the world, and to that end, our bill provides critical safety enhancements, grows America’s aviation workforce, invests in infrastructure at airports of all sizes, sets clear priorities for advancing innovative aviation solutions, improves the flying public’s travel experience, and ensures a healthy general aviation sector for years to come.

“The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2024 is the culmination of months of work between House and Senate committee leaders, and we look forward to moving this agreement through both chambers as expeditiously as possible.”

Joint letter from Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO), Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Rep. Rick Larsen (D-WA), and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)

“By getting a five-year reauthorization agreement for both FAA and NTSB, Congress is showing that aviation safety and stronger consumer standards are a big priority. More FAA safety inspectors, mandates on near miss technology and 25-hour cockpit voice recorders, and FAA upgrades to its systems ensure the gold standard in safety. It is also the first major upgrade to air traffic controller hiring in decades. Plus, it sets into law for the first time the right to a refund when flights have been cancelled or delayed more than three hours.”

Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Chair Maria Cantwell (D-WA)

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