Critical Aviation Projects Come to a Halt Due to Congressional Inaction
“Construction workers across America will lose their jobs and local communities will be hurt the longer this goes on. Congress needs to pass an FAA bill to prevent further economic damage,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “This is no way to run the best aviation system in the world.”
“Unless Congress acts quickly, more work on projects critical to our nation’s aviation system will come to a halt. Work is stopping on construction and planning projects, NextGen system testing, and airport certification. The list goes on and on and this is just the beginning,” said FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt.
Construction workers, engineers and planners were told not to come to worksites across the country after the FAA was forced to issue stop work orders on projects ranging from the construction of new air traffic control towers to the rehabilitation and modernization of air traffic facilities. Nearly 4,000 FAA personnel, many needed to oversee various aspects of these projects, were furloughed on Saturday. Stopping work on these projects could significantly increase the ultimate costs of construction for taxpayers. Some of these projects include:
- Las Vegas, Nevada: A more than $43 million project to build a new air traffic control tower at McCarran International Airport. Contractor: Archer Western Contractors.
- Palm Springs, California: A $24.5 million project to build a new air traffic control tower at Palm Springs International Airport. Contractors: Swinterton Builders.
- Oakland, California: A $31 million project to build a new air traffic control tower at Oakland International Airport. Contractor: Devcon Construction.
- Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania: A more than $18 million project to build a new air traffic control tower at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport. Contractor: Donald J. Keating Co.
- Kalamazoo, Michigan: A more than $14 million project to build a new air traffic control tower at Battle Creek International Airport. Contractor: Skanska.
- Gulfport, Mississippi: A nearly $12 million project to build a new air traffic control tower at Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport. Contractor: Flintco, Inc.
- Queens, NY: A more than $6 million project to demolish the old air traffic control tower at LaGuardia Airport. Work was supposed to begin on Saturday. Contractor: Paul J. Scariano Inc.
Before last Friday, the FAA was also prepared to award contracts for new air traffic control towers in Cleveland, Ohio and Fort Lauderdale, Florida but was forced to suspend that process because the agency was no longer authorized to access the Airport and Airway Trust Fund.
In addition to the FAA’s work on the construction of aviation facilities such as control towers, it is a primary funding source for other airport projects through the Airport Improvement Program. The program is also unable to operate without congressional authorization and as a result the FAA is unable to get roughly $2.5 billion out the door for airport projects in all 50 states that could put thousands of people to work in good paying jobs
Nearly 4,000 FAA employees in 35 states, and the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, have been furloughed and forced to go without pay. Large numbers of employees in New Jersey, New York, California, Georgia, Oklahoma, Texas, Washington, Illinois and the District of Columbia are being affected. This includes many of the FAA’s engineers, scientists, research analysts, administrative assistants, computer specialists, program managers and analysts, environmental protection specialists, and community planners.
While this lapse in FAA’s authorization affects thousands of public and private sector jobs, it is important to note that the safety of the flying public will not be compromised.