WASHINGTON, DC – In an effort to enhance airport security, extend new protections to airline passengers, and keep improvements to T.F. Green Airport on schedule, U.S. Senator Jack Reed today voted to pass a long-term reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).  The bipartisan aviation policy bill was approved on a vote of 95-3.

The bill authorizes $33 billion for FAA operations and related programs through fiscal 2017.  Without Congressional action, that authority is due to expire July 15.  The U.S. House of Representatives has yet to pass an FAA reauthorization and Senator Reed is urging them to act on a bipartisan basis.

“I am pleased we were able to find a bipartisan way forward to enhance airport security and airline safety while protecting consumers and keeping needed upgrades to T.F. Green and other airports on schedule," said Senator Reed.  “This bill contains needed security enhancements and consumer-friendly provisions that will make flying a little easier and a lot safer for passengers.”

One provision that was not included in the final bill was an initiative Senator Reed backed to bar airlines from cramming passengers into smaller and smaller seats by requiring the FAA to set minimum space standards for airplanes.  An amendment authored by Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) would have required FAA to place a moratorium on airlines further reducing the size of their seats, and directed the agency, in consultation with experts, to set a minimum standard seat size and pitch for commercial flights.  It also would have increased transparency by requiring airlines to post their seat dimensions on their websites, providing a commercial incentive for airlines to offer more comfortable seating arrangements.  The vote on the amendment failed 42 to 54.

The bill is also necessary to ensure federal funds are available to upgrade T.F. Green Airport and expand the runway.  With strong support from state and local officials, the business community, and labor, the T.F. Green runway expansion project is beginning to take off.  At the federal level, Senator Reed has led efforts to work with the FAA on plans to invest approximately $110 million in upgrading T.F. Green Airport and expanding the runway.  Just this week, the state received an $11,754,605 grant installment to continue work on the project.

Work on the project -- including safety improvements to a secondary runway, building a new de-icing facility, and the moving of ball fields -- is underway and being done in several phases.  Construction on various aspects of the improvement plan will continue through December of 2017.

“T.F. Green is vital to our state’s economy and upgrading the airport and expanding the runway are smart investments that will help attract new business and jobs to Rhode Island.  I hope the House will take up and pass this bipartisan bill without needless delay,” concluded Reed.