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Charlotte airport could generate up to $3.3B with private lease

Charlotte could cash in on $3.3 billion by leasing Charlotte Douglas International Airport, according to a new study.

Libertarian think tank the Reason Foundation said in its report Charlotte could use the revenue created by leasing the airport to a private company to address its critical needs.

Government airport owners are not allowed to receive any of an airport’s net revenue under federal airport regulations. The funding must be reserved for airport use. In 2018, Congress, however, created the Airport Investment Partnership Program, which allows governments to enter into long-term public-private partnership leases and use the net revenue from the lease for public use.

Researchers said that the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport in San Juan, Puerto Rico, is the only U.S. airport currently being leased by a private owner. The airport’s 40-year agreement will generate $1.2 billion for the island’s capital city. The government has used half of the money to upgrade smaller airports and to pay down government debt.

Officials in Chicago and St. Louis also have made attempts at leasing airports. The Reason Foundation estimated by leasing 31 large and medium airports in the country, cities could generate $131 billion.

Using data from previous airport sales and long-term leases worldwide, Reason Foundation researchers estimated the Charlotte Douglas International Airport’s lease could be worth between $2.3 billion and $3.3 billion. However, the airport currently has $982 million in debt from expansions. Even after paying off that debt and the city’s $439 million in unfunded public pension system liabilities, the Reason Foundation said Charlotte still would have around $1.9 billion remaining for public infrastructure.

“Charlotte could put that money towards modernizing existing infrastructure such as aging roads and bridges, funding new projects in its long-range transportation plan, or paying down existing debt,” researchers wrote.

The Charlotte City Council could not be reached for comment.

This article was originally posted on Charlotte airport could generate up to $3.3B with private lease