U.S. Sen. Jack Reed flies frequently, and he knows T.F. Green International Airport well.
“I travel to lots of airports,” he told members of the media outside the airport’s security checkpoint Friday morning. “I was here last night about 9 o’clock, and I’ll be here this afternoon about 4 o’clock.”
Based on that experience, Reed called T.F. Green “the best airport in America – big, small, large, medium, whatever.”
His support has gone beyond words of praise. According to his office, he has helped secure more than $200 million to extend Green’s runway and otherwise modernize the facility during his time in Congress.
On Friday, alongside Rhode Island Airport Corporation President and CEO Iftikhar Ahmad and TSA Federal Security Director Daniel Burche, he announced a new financial boost for Rhode Island’s aviation hub – $5.5 million in federal funding for T.F. Green secured as part of federal appropriations legislation for 2020.
“It’s Sen. Reed that, again and again, every year, keeps coming back with help that is durable and help that is significant and is moving things at the airport…he has been a tremendous help,” Ahmad said during brief remarks to members of the media.
The money for T.F. Green comes via a $40 million set-aside meant to reimburse a number of airports for security and baggage screening improvements made in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, according to a statement from Reed’s office.
The funding is a provision of the overall $7.8 billion appropriations bill, which the statement said would boost TSA staffing “by over 1,000 frontline workers nationwide.” Reed said the funding will additionally provide support for air traffic control operations and the aircraft certification process through the Federal Aviation Administration – the latter of which is especially important in light of the safety concerns that have surrounded the Boeing 737 Max.
“We are determined to make sure that does not happen again,” he said.
Reed, a Democrat, serves as a ranking member of the Senate’s Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD) Appropriations Subcommittee.
During Friday’s event, Reed said T.F. Green moved quickly to institute security upgrades in the wake of 9/11 – and received the federal government’s word that it would be made whole for doing so. He also pointed to the discovery of a handgun in a carry-on bag at the airport’s security checkpoint last month as an example of the “critical work” being done by TSA personnel to keep travelers safe.
“After 9/11, this airport didn’t wait. They took steps at the urging of the federal government, they were told they’d be reimbursed, to provide upgraded security…and they’ve been waiting to be paid,” he said.
Noting that the airport’s outlay has yet to be fully reimbursed, he senator added, “We’ve compensated you $18 million. We’ve only got $12 million to go, but I’m not stopping until we get our full reimbursement.”
According to the statement from Reed’s office, TSA screens approximately 5,700 passengers and flight crewmembers at T.F. Green daily. That figure peaks at nearly 8,000 during the year’s busiest travel days. Roughly 4.3 million passengers flew from, or to, Green in 2018.
T.F. Green is served by 10 airlines and has become well known as the home of the New England Patriots’ team plane.
“We all understand that T.F. Green is a vital part of our state’s economy,” Reed said. “Air traffic is a huge part of our national and international economy, so we’ll continue to work to make sure that the resources are here for this airport and the good people who serve us every day.”
Iftikhar said the reimbursement funding would allow the airport to focus on other areas of need. He said he believes the facility has room to grow and can be a key part of the state’s economic growth strategy moving forward.
“It’s great for our community and great for our state,” he said.
Reed and Ahmad also used the press event to highlight T.F. Green’s nomination for an award as the nation’s “Best Small Airport” in USA Today’s 10Best Readers’ Choice Travel Awards. Voting closed Monday, with the winner to be announced Jan. 24. T.F. Green was atop the survey’s online leaderboard before it was closed from public viewing last week.