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Transportation Infrastructure: Airports at Risk


By Kimberly Arsenault
EDM Digest

Transportation infrastructure is crucial to the American economy, and as a global connector, airports play a unique and significant role in the transportation system of the United States. Airports connect people, places, goods, and services across regions, throughout the nation, and around the world. This role makes airports a vital component of the Transportation Systems Sector of the Critical Infrastructure and Key Resources (CIKR) under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Office of Infrastructure Protection (IP).

As a critical infrastructure component, upgrades and improvements are vital to maintaining the safety of aviation, airports, and flying passengers, however, these are likely to present increased challenges to emergency management efforts at airports. Recent changes in technology include the introduction of the Airbus A380 double decker aircraft that exceeds infrastructure limits at many airports. Other technology includes new hazardous material scanning systems and upgraded computers that increase exposure to cyber security threats due to the interconnectedness of society.

As these new technologies are introduced and upgrades occur, training, equipment, planning, and exercise needs are going to increase. It is important to address these needs during the development and planning stages of new systems and/or infrastructure upgrades to be certain that appropriate steps are taken to advance airport emergency management at the same pace.

The Economic Role of Airports

Airport security and safety must be maintained, but airports also need to meet growing economic needs. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) 2017 Infrastructure Report Card gave Aviation a “D” grade, noting that airport congestion is growing, especially at major hubs. In 2015, 2.25 million passengers were served by airports across the nation with a total of almost 8.8 million commercial flights alone. Current capacity limits are causing major congestion at the nation’s airports, which can have a direct impact on the economy.

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