U.S. Senators Barbara A. Mikulski and Ben Cardin along with Representatives C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger and John Delaney (all D-Md.) today praised the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Ray LaHood's decision to agree with their request to postpone plans to close federal contract air traffic control towers, including at five Maryland regional airports. The announcement follows their letter yesterday calling for a postponement as members of Congress continue to work on efforts to cancel sequestration. That letter is available here.
"The decision to postpone these tower closures is a hard-fought important step in ensuring Maryland's safety and economic security," Senator Mikulski said. "Sequester is having real impacts in real communities with real consequences. I will continue to fight as we work towards a balanced solution to cancel sequester, protect jobs and get our economy rolling."
"Today's announcement by the FAA to postpone closure of the 149 federal contract air traffic control towers -- including five in Maryland -- is an important step in trying to reach a solution that ensures public safety and addresses the multiples challenges such closures would cause," said Senator Cardin. "It is one more example of why sequestration is a bad policy that results in jobs loss for American workers and economic hardships for affected communities. I am committed to ending sequestration as soon as possible; it's bad economic policy for our state and our nation."
"I am pleased that the FAA has decided to postpone this decision which would have had negative impacts on Martin State Airport in the 2nd District of Maryland," Congressman Ruppersberger said.
"I applaud the FAA's decision to delay the closures of the control towers in Frederick and Hagerstown. Keeping these towers open is important to local economic development. Hopefully, with this additional time, we can find a long-term solution that works," said Congressman John Delaney.
The U.S. DOT has announced that it will delay closure of 149 federal contract air traffic control towers across the nation until June 15, 2013, which were set to be closed as early as this month. Secretary LaHood has stated that sequester will slash more than $600 million from the FAA resulting in mandatory furloughs for nearly 47,000 air transportation employees and the closure of 149 federal contract air traffic control towers across the country. Air traffic control towers nationwide with fewer than 150,000 flight operations or 10,000 commercial operations annually are going to be closed. The Maryland closures would negatively impact national security as well as regional economic security.
The postponement keeps federal contract air traffic control towers operating at the following Maryland regional airports, which were set to close later this month or in May:
Frederick Municipal Airport
Hagerstown Regional Airport
Martin State Airport
Salisbury-Ocean City Wicomico Regional Airport
Last month, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski led passage of a bipartisan continuing resolution to prevent a government shutdown and fund the government though the remainder of Fiscal Year (FY) 2013. She worked to include flexibility for agencies like the FAA to shift funding priorities in order to mitigate the most harmful impacts of sequester, which could have kept the towers open. Unfortunately, this authority was not included in the final bill.