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FAA awards $31 million to Harry Reid International Airport to improve baggage claim

Gabby Birenbaum
Gabby Birenbaum

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The Federal Aviation Administration will give $31 million to Harry Reid International Airport for terminal upgrades through funding from a section of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) wrote, Rosen’s office announced Monday.

The FAA grant, provided through the Terminal Grant Program, will fund improvements in Terminals 1 and 3. The terminal upgrades will come at a time when Reid Airport is posting its highest passenger totals ever recorded, with 52.6 million travelers coming through the airport in 2022.

“The travel and tourism industries are key to the success of Nevada’s economy,” Rosen said in a statement. “The improvements made possible through this funding that I secured for Harry Reid International Airport will make long-overdue improvements to modernize the airport, replace aging and outdated infrastructure, and improve traveler experience.”

The funding is specifically targeted at upgrading the two terminals’ baggage handling system, which airport officials and the Nevada delegation say is outdated and aging. In Terminal 1, the funds will replace eight of the 16 existing baggage carousels with larger and more modern equipment, including new conveyors, standby power systems and updated carousels themselves. 

The terminal’s inbound baggage handling system had been in place for 40 years and was showing signs of age, Nevada Democrats said in an October letter to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

In Terminal 3, the funding will upgrade the baggage control system to match that of Terminal 1. It will also make the belts more energy-efficient, using technology to ensure it only runs when bags are present. 

In their letter, Nevada Democrats projected the new terminal technology would increase baggage capacity by 20 percent, decrease congestion in the baggage pickup area through improved efficiency, and make the baggage retrieval process easier for passengers with disabilities. The construction phase of the project is also expected to create 80 jobs over the course of nearly three years.

“We are thankful to all the members of the Nevada Congressional delegation who voted for this historic investment in airport infrastructure and supported this project,” Rosemary Vassiliadis, the Clark County Director of Aviation, said in a statement. “By upgrading our baggage handling systems, we will be prepared to more efficiently serve a growing number of passengers.”

The Airport Terminal Program provided $5 billion for new grant funding for mostly large airports to take on capital projects targeted at increasing capacity and passenger access, ensuring disability law compliance, improving energy efficiency, replacing aging infrastructure and creating jobs. 

Its creation was a victory for Rosen, who co-wrote the aviation section of the bill as part of negotiators’ airports working group and is a Senate leader on travel and tourism-focused legislation. The first $1 billion of funding was released in 2022, but no Nevada airports were included – making the next tranche a priority for the Nevada Democrats who voted for the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

Grants through the Airport Terminal Program represent a massive increase in federal investment in Reid Airport. Airports fund themselves through a mix of revenue generated through parking, airline fees, rents and other uses, as well as through federal grants and selling bonds. 

As passenger volumes have increased and infrastructure has aged, the need for capital improvement projects – typically financed either by federal funding or by taking on debt – has increased. Large airports receive annual entitlements from the FAA’s Airport Improvement Plan based on statistics like their passenger volume, and can apply for discretionary funds as well. In fiscal year 2022, for example, Reid Airport’s entitlement was $6.5 million, and the airport received about $6.9 million in discretionary funds.

The new $31 million grant, then, represents a massive increase in federal investment in improvement projects.

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) also framed the grant as evidence of Democratic policy delivery.

“The Harry Reid International Airport is seeing record numbers of passengers, and this historic funding I secured in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will improve the travel experience of the millions who come through Las Vegas each year,” Cortez Masto said in a statement.


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