Not only are few US airports among the world’s best, but overall, they are in bad shape: In 2021, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave America’s aviation system a D+, largely because airports’ basic inefficiencies and lack of space lead to problems like delays and overcrowding. The airport grade was worse than those of other, oft-maligned parts of US transportation infrastructure, like bridges, which earned a C, and roads, which were given a D.

Just how far behind are we in keeping up with the rising rate of air travel? There’s been plenty of small renovations and expansions to existing airports over the years. Mere budget bandaids that barely put a dent in actual needs. And this:

The only major US airport to open in the last 30 years is Denver International Airport, a mega project in which the Denver Regional Council of Governments had the luxury of selecting a space in the 1980s rather than the 1940s. The result, which cost $8.2 billion by today’s standards, was North America’s largest airport by land area, with far more space for terminals and concourses than is typical.