On March 13, 2013, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) convened a public hearing to adopt new grant assurances in the Washington Administrative Code (WAC) 468-260. Grant assurances are terms and conditions used to protect the public’s investment in the aviation system. They require airport sponsors to maintain and operate their facilities safely, efficiently and in accordance with specified conditions.
WSDOT’s Airport Aid Grant Program provides about $1 million to airports for crucial projects every year. The program also uses state and local match funds to leverage millions in federal dollars. Funding for the grant program comes from aviation users – an 11-cent fee on aviation fuel and a portion of the state aircraft registration and excise tax fees.
Aviation Division Director Tristan Atkins noted, “Grant Assurances are an important part of WSDOT’s Airport Aid Grant program. We have limited state airport aid grant funds, and that means we have to choose airport investments wisely and be transparent to the public.”
Implementing these new airport grant assurances will preserve and protect the State’s investments in the aviation system. Developing new assurances was a recommendation of the Washington State Aviation Planning Council in July 2009.
Modeled after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) assurances, WSDOT grant assurances provide enhanced oversight of airport aid grant funds, and add benefits to airports receiving funds. The similarity of FAA and WSDOT grant assurances simplifies the grant process for the 64 National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems (NPIAS) airports that also abide by FAA grant assurances, reinforces the Aviation Division’s policy to encourage Non-NPIAS (only state grant eligible) airports to strive to meet FAA standards, and demonstrates the WSDOT Aviation’s continuing partnership with the FAA.
WSDOT’s new grant assurances carry forward all the provisions of the previous grant agreement:
- Compliance with plans and specifications
- Real property acquisition procedures
- Local jurisdiction funds availability
- Maintain public access for useful life of a project, not to exceed 20 years
- Airport shall not charge state agencies for limited/reasonable use
- Inspections and Reporting
The new grant assurances add new components tied to compatible land-use planning, public hearings, pavement maintenance, non-discrimination, environmental stewardship, and a host of similar programmatic improvements:
- References to state RCWs, WACs and Executive Orders
- Good title
- Preserving rights and powers
- Consistency with local plans
- Consideration of local interest
- Consultation with users
- Public hearings
- Air and water quality standards
- Pavement preventive maintenance
- Accounting system, audit, and recordkeeping requirements
- Wage rates
- Nondiscrimination requirements
- Equal employment opportunity (EEO) responsibilities
- Veteran's preference
- Planning projects
- Operation and maintenance
- Hazard removal and mitigation
- Compatible land use
- Economic nondiscrimination
- Fee and rental structure
- Airport revenues
- Land for state facilities
- Airport layout plan
- Disposal of land
- Engineering and design services
- Foreign market restrictions
- Policies, standards, and specifications
- Disadvantaged business enterprises
- Hangar construction
The grant assurances were vetted through a technical advisory committee comprised of respected airport managers representing the broad spectrum of Washington airports, from small privately owned airports to large commercial service airports. The assurances were distributed statewide to all airport sponsors and the general public for review and comment.
Rob Hodgman, Aviation Division senior planner stated, “We appreciate the input we received from the Technical Advisory Committee and airport sponsors. We have tremendous aviation expertise in Washington and we value being able to integrate that expertise to ensure the end product meets the needs of the aviation community”.
The public hearing on March 13 was completed smoothly with no comments from the public. The grant assurances have been formally adopted as policy by WSDOT and will be published in the WAC on April 9, 2013.