U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Federal Aviation Administration Administrator Randy Babbitt joined with local contractors and construction workers at LaGuardia Airport on Monday to demand that Congress pass an FAA bill before getting on airplanes to fly away for vacation.
Since Congress allowed the FAA's last extension to expire on July 22, dozens of construction projects across the country have been issued "stop work orders," including a $6 million project to demolish the decommissioned FAA Airport Traffic Control Tower at LaGuardia International Airport that employed 40 New York area workers. Other workers nationwide have similarly been forced to stop work on critical airport modernization projects, and nearly 4,000 FAA employees, many needed to oversee these projects, have been furloughed.
"Members of Congress should not get on a plane to fly home for vacation without passing an FAA bill and putting thousands of people back to work," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "Congress needs to do its job for the good of these workers, for the good of our economy and for the good of America's aviation system."
FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt said, "Every day this goes on, we fall further behind. We need our 4,000 FAA employees and tens of thousands of construction workers back on the job so we can get critical projects moving again while it's still construction season. Congress must act quickly before leaving for the August recess."
"It wasn't easy telling my construction workers we've been shut down because of a fiscal situation in Washington," said Luca Toscano, Vice President of Paul J. Scariano Inc. and contractor on the LaGuardia airport project. "Some of these guys just got back to work after a long time, and their benefits have all expired. So for them this is like running into a brick wall, and they're asking me, 'How do we explain this to our families?' I don't know what to say to them."
"No doubt there are important policy questions that need to be resolved with the aviation legislation," said Stephen E. Sandherr chief executive officer of the Associated General Contractors of America. "But construction workers shouldn't have to suffer because Washington hasn't figured out a way to work out its differences."
"Because Congress has failed to pass an FAA extension, New York has lost access to millions of dollars for airport construction projects that would employ hundreds of construction workers. These have been tough times for the construction industry and workers have been hardest hit. For the sake of workers across the country who have already lost a week's pay because of Congress' inaction, we need an extension now," said Paul Fernandes, Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York Chief of Staff.
Without a reauthorization, 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. In addition to the nearly 4,000 FAA employees in 35 states, and the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico who have been furloughed and forced to go without pay, Associated General Contractors (AGC) estimates that 70,000 construction workers and workers in related fields have been affected.
The FAA's previous extension expired at midnight on Friday, July 22. Since then, more than 200 "stop work orders" have been issued for airport construction projects and contracts around the country. While the flying public will be unaffected and safety will not be compromised, stopping work on these projects will significantly increase the ultimate costs of construction for taxpayers and could delay important programs.