U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to tout BNA growth, grant on Nashville visit

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to tout BNA growth, grant on Nashville visit

Catching a flight at Nashville International Airport can be a slog on busy travel days as traffic backs up onto I-40 and cars clog the terminal’s entrance.

Long-held plans to streamline traffic lanes in and around the frenetic campus are making progress, and the White House has taken notice.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg will visit Nashville on Friday to celebrate a $7 million federal grant to help pay for road improvements around the busy airport.

The visit highlights President Joe Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, which allocates $550 billion to improve roads, bridges, broadband, drinking-water systems and power lines. The bill includes $25 billion for airports to address “repair and maintenance backlogs” and reduce traffic congestion.

“Americans deserve the best airports in the world, and with demand for air travel surging back, this funding to improve the passenger experience couldn’t come at a more urgent time,” Buttigieg said in a statement. “These grants will make it faster and easier to check your bags, get through security, and find your gate, all while creating jobs and supporting local economies.”

Memphis International Airport was awarded $14.8 million for improvement in the terminal lobby, and Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport received $5 million for terminal expansion.

Airport traffic improvements

At Nashville airport, the $7 million grant will go toward an ongoing project to realign and widen roadways into the airport.

The Tennessee Department of Transportation is also 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.

Construction outside the airport is also clearing 30 acres that will be used to extend Concourse A, and a new $134 million satellite concourse will add 8 more gates to accommodate new routes.

BNA operations are privately funded with parking, concessions, terminal rental and aircraft landing fees. State and federal grants and bonds are used for capital-improvement projects, though they are also largely funded by the Metropolitan Nashville Airport Authority.

This year, Nashville airport is finalizing its $1.4 billion BNA Vision expansion of its terminal lobby, parking garages, international-arrivals facility, offices and other services such as the first on-site hotel. BNA Horizon, the next $1 billion phase of construction, will expand the number of airport gates and improve roadways.

“Today’s funding doesn’t just improve Nashville International Airport’s terminal. It creates opportunities in the community for good-paying jobs and a chance to be part of our country’s thriving aviation sector,” said FAA Deputy Administrator A. Bradley Mims.

Sandy Mazza can be reached via email at smazza@tennessean.com, by calling 615-726-5962, or on Twitter @SandyMazza.