In Nashville, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg details $7M airport grant

In Nashville, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg details $7M airport grant

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg joined Mayor John Cooper at Nashville International Airport Friday to publicize a $7 million federal grant that will help improve the transportation hub’s main access road, Donelson Pike. 

Buttigieg lauded a 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which provided $1 billion for improvements at 99 airports nationwide. Having just minutes before arrived in the home of the Predators, he used a hockey analogy to explain why he visited Nashville’s airport to celebrate the Airport Terminal Program.

“We couldn’t fund everyone who wanted support, and we can’t visit every airport,” Buttigieg said. “I am here because I am so impressed with what’s going on. That focus, the airport commission and the city have had on skating to where the puck is going, as they say, with all this growth.”

The Airport Terminal Program grant funds are part of the $1.2 trillion national infrastructure package that includes improvements to roads, bridges, ports, railways, public transportation, power grids and broadband internet. 

Nashville International is already using another $8.6 million from the infrastructure law to rebuild one of its taxiways.   

“The city of Nashville is doing a commendable job taking care of this airport for it’s high-growth future,” Buttigieg said. “Honestly, these improvements couldn’t come at a more fitting time. We know what we are up against as a country in terms of making sure that passengers have a better experience.

“We’ve seen airports and airlines alike struggling to keep up with surging demand, especially in the last year.”

Cooper said the airport expansion is central to the success of the city.

“BNA generated $1.8 billion in economic impact back in 2019. That number is just dwarfed by what’s happening now with the new airport. We need the investment,” he said.

Airports in Tennessee are receiving over $22 million in grants from this round of Airport Terminal funding, including $14.8 million for Memphis International Airport and $1 million for the Charles W. Baker Airport in Millington.

What are specifics of Nashville airport improvements? 

The latest funding will go toward reconfiguring Donelson Pike, which includes lowering, lengthening and widening the airport’s main road. Improvements will also include safety and signage enhancements.

The Tennessee Department of Transportation is coordinating the relocation of Donelson Pike by the I-40 interchange to extend airplane taxiways for international flights. Superior Construction and RS&H Architects redesigned airport roadways and a “diverging diamond interchange” off I-40 for better traffic flow on nearby interstate ramps. The $125 million project will also expand terminal parking lot A, economy lots B and C, and the cell phone waiting area.

Doug Kreulen, airport president and CEO, said the expansion will be needed for the volume passengers expected in the years ahead.

Last year, 18.4 million passengers passed through the airport.

Kreulen said he expects 21 million passengers this year, and 35 million in the near future.

The airport’s new 200,000-square-foot Grand Lobby, a key component of the current multi-billion dollar BNA Vision improvement plan, opened in January. The $1.4 billion BNA Vision first phase is adding gates in the new Southwest Airlines concourse, infrastructure for a rapid-transit bus stop, road improvements and extensions of the terminal apron and taxi lane for more planes.

Biggest winners nationwide? 

The airport terminals program grants will fund a variety of projects nationwide, including the installation of new baggage systems, larger security checkpoints, improved ground transportation as well as increase terminal sustainability and improve disability access. 

Airports receiving the largest grants include: 

  • $50 million to O’Hare International Airport in Chicago to rehabilitate and expand passenger access for the 60-year-old Terminal 3. 
  • $35 million to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport for the second phase of the installation of the airport’s Zero Carbon Electric Central Utility Plant, which will be powered by renewable energy. 
  • $29 million to Salt Lake City International Airport for the new SLC phased terminal and a concourse redevelopment program for aging and capacity-constrained facilities.