Long Beach Airport to receive $6 million from infrastructure bill

Long Beach Airport will receive a little over $6 million from the infrastructure bill that President Joe Biden signed into effect last month, U.S. senators Alex Padilla and Dianne Feinstein announced on Thursday.

Provided through the Department of Transportation, the funding is for the improvement of the infrastructures of 167 airports across California, including runway renovations and upgraded terminal facilities, according to the senators’ press release.

In effect, the projects are expected to create better paying jobs and assist the tourism industry, which is recovering from massive financial loss as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are thrilled to receive this funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to modernize our aging facilities and make the travel experience at Long Beach Airport even more convenient, safe and sustainable,” Long Beach Airport Director Cynthia Guidry said. “Airports play a vital economic role in our communities and this is an investment in our future.”

Among the investments is funding for the Phase II Terminal Area Improvement Program, which will includes a consolidated baggage claim area and a new ground transportation center, LGB spokesperson Kate Kuykendall said.

Kuykendall said that LGB, like many airports across the country, has aging infrastructure and a long list of needed improvements, including sustainability upgrades.

LGB was established in 1923 after the Long Beach City Council purchased 150 acres near the intersection of Spring Street and Cherry Avenue, making it California’s oldest airport, according to city history.

Since then, the airport, now occupying more 1,166 acres, has been owned and operated by the city of Long Beach while generating more than $1 billion in economic impact and supporting thousands of jobs.

LGB, however, took a hard hit in revenue loss last year due to lower passenger numbers—at one point dropping more than 95%—and capital costs from a number of improvement projects underway. At least two-thirds of the airport’s revenue is dependent on passengers purchasing flights.

Despite a loss in revenue, cost-cutting measures, along with federal recovery funds, have helped LGB enter 2022 “on stable financial footing,” Kuykendall said. And with the expanding availability of COVID-19 vaccines and booster shots, California airports, including LGB, seem to be full of life once more with an uptick in flights.

This year, LGB has had a 69% increase in total passenger traffic, according to its most recent activity report. And in October alone, LGB experienced a 280% increase in total passenger traffic.

“We’re very excited to see the recent uptick in passenger traffic, but our 2021 numbers are still lower than pre-pandemic levels,” Kuykendall said. “We anticipate further improvement in 2022, but our current projects show that we likely won’t return to pre-pandemic numbers until 2023.”

In addition, the Federal Aviation Administration will help LGB with additional funds, separate from the infrastructure bill, for a $25 million project to reconstruct a runway for departing commercial flights.

The FAA will allocate an additional $12 billion nationwide in airport infrastructure improvements provided by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill over the next several years. The law will also provide $5 billion in additional grant funding for terminal development projects and $5 billion to improve air traffic control infrastructure.

This article has been updated with information from a Long Beach Airport spokesperson. 

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Fernando Haro is the Long Beach Post's breaking news and public safety reporter.
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