Bill Now Goes to the President for Signature
Amendments Require Bush Administration to Develop Plan to Ease Congestion in NY/NJ/Philly Airspace
New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania's U.S. Senators announced today that the full Congress has approved two measures they authored to reduce flight delays and ease congestion in the New York/New Jersey airspace as part of the Fiscal Year 2008 Omnibus Appropriations Bill. One amendment would require the federal government to provide a plan to Congress to reduce flight delays in the New York/New Jersey/Pennsylvania Region, the nation's most densely congested airspace. The other amendment requires the investigative arm of Congress, the Government Accountability Office, to investigate the Administration's Airspace Redesign Plan, as well as the effectiveness of a variety of approaches used nationwide to reduce flight delays.
The Senators called for action after record airport delays this summer and amid major concerns that the Federal Aviation Administration's announced Airspace Redesign for the New York/New Jersey/Philadelphia area will increase aircraft noise while providing only minimal delay reductions.
Having been approved by both chambers of Congress, the bill will now go before the House for final passage before being sent the President for signature.
"Even with the FAA thankfully becoming much more active on this issue recently, we need the type of detailed, well-researched information these reports will produce regarding the best ways to cut down the excruciating delays," said Senator Menendez. "Until delays have actually been minimized, we cannot stop searching for answers. I will also be eager to see the results of an independent review of the airspace redesign scheduled to be implemented this week, which promises to turn up the noise level for New Jersey residents but might only have a marginal effect on delays."
"We need real solutions to give travelers relief from the constant flight delays and cancellations that plague our region," said Senator Lautenberg. "Our aviation system is a mess and the Bush Administration's proposed fixes continue to fall short. The Administration's plans would raise fares, create more aircraft noise in more neighborhoods and could even worsen delays. Our sensible legislation is a needed reality check to improve air travel in our region and nationwide."
"In light of today's announcement by Secretary Peters, it has become clear that the Bush Administration must be forced to take action to resolve the worsening problems in our skies. While American travelers face chronic delays, excessive noise, and dangerously overcrowded skies, the Administration's solution will increase costs, congestion, and frustration. This measure will require the FAA to provide a real plan to deal with this problem," said Senator Clinton.
"These amendments are an important step toward forcing the administration to take a long, hard look at the chaos in our skies, and to produce real recommendations to ensure that our congested aviation system receives some real relief," said Senator Schumer.
"Chronic flight delays in this region have serious economic and social consequences, and I am pleased my colleagues have adopted this provision aimed at addressing the congestion," Senator Specter said. "I look forward to reviewing the Department of Transportation's findings and intentions to tackle this problem."
"I am pleased that this legislation will force the Bush Administration to take a hard look at regional congestion problems. Anyone who has visited the Philadelphia International Airport knows that delays are a fact of life for air travelers. It doesn't need to be this way, and I will continue to support efforts to reduce flight delays in a responsible and reasonable way," said Senator Casey.
Details of the FAA Plan amendment
Specifically, the amendment requires the Secretary of Transportation to submit to Congress a report detailing how the Federal Aviation Administration plans to alleviate air congestion and flight delays in the New York/New Jersey/Philadelphia Airspace by August 31, 2008. The report would have to be submitted no later than 120 days after the enactment of the legislation.
Details of the GAO amendment
The measure directs the GAO to conduct a study of the efficacy of various approaches used in the past by the FAA and the DOT to address delays at our nation's airports. Within 120 days of enactment, the GAO is to report which strategies have worked best to comprehensively reduce flight delays at an airport within 6 months or less. Specifically, the GAO is instructed to examine efforts by the FAA to induce voluntary schedule reductions at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, the FAA's mandatory flight reduction operations at LaGuardia International Airport and Reagan National Airport, the New York/New Jersey/Philadelphia Metropolitan Area Airspace Redesign and any other significant efforts by the FAA or the DOT to reduce flight delays at a major U.S. international airport.