U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Pittsburgh) visited Pittsburgh International Airport on March 26 to meet with aviation industry staff to discuss the recent $1.9 trillion federal stimulus package, a portion of which will be allocated to the aviation industry.
During the visit, Lamb—who sits on the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee and its Aviation Subcommittee—spent time with Blue Sky Executive Editor Bob Kerlik to talk about what’s next.
Bob Kerlik: Why did you come to the airport today?
U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb: The airport is the economic center of my district. It’s one of the most important employers—the place that the rest of our community relies on. So I always want to be checking in with (airport leadership) to make sure I’m doing everything I can to help. We’ve done a lot in the last couple of COVID bills to try to keep things going here, and I just wanted to make sure it was working as intended, which it seems to be.
BK: Airports obviously were included in the most recent bill. Why do you think that was important?
CL: I just think it’s obvious we need a thriving aviation sector in this country in order to have the economy rebound the way we want it to. And airports were in a tough spot. It wasn’t safe for a lot of people to travel during the past year, so you needed a backstop in a time of crisis and that’s what we’re trying to provide. It’s thousands and thousands of jobs, both here and across the state, and we want those preserved so when people do start traveling again this year, this asset is there for them. It’s essential to the Pittsburgh region.
BK: Let’s talk infrastructure. The president is going to be here soon talking about infrastructure. How do you see airports fitting into an infrastructure bill?
CL: I think they’re going to have a big role to play. A lot of our airports were built a long time ago, not necessarily for the needs of the 21st century, and I think airports can make entire regions more efficient and industrious when it comes to moving goods and even business travelers. I know the administration is valuing this highly and it’s up to people like me who represent airports in their districts to make sure they put it at the top of the priority list.
BK: As a member of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, this bill will be something you’ll be working with very closely?
CL: Absolutely. I’m proud of the fact that I think Pittsburgh has a better case to be made than almost anywhere else in the country about the way (PIT) is modernizing the airport on your own initiative for a post-COVID world. You are making it more efficient, greener, and you’re making it probably a healthier place to pass through than almost any other airport in the country. That’s the type of investment we need. That will pay off over a generation of travelers in Pittsburgh.
BK: What role, if any, would you see the federal government playing in the Terminal Modernization Program at the airport?
CL: I think it depends. It’s the kind of thing we would normally handle with the airport on a case-by-case basis. I know you have a strong commitment from the airlines themselves to make this investment, which is the most important thing, but there certainly is a federal interest here, so we can work on that as time goes on.