Dear Majority Leader Reid and Minority Leader McConnell:
We write today to thank you for your continued work to pass a long-term Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Bill and to ask for your support in moving forward with a short-term FAA authorization extension. A short-term extension will keep Colorado airports safe and open and prevent much-needed summer construction projects at many Colorado airports from being delayed or cancelled altogether.
As you know, earlier this year, the Senate worked together to pass a long-term FAA Reauthorization Bill, which has not been rewritten since 2007. This important bill, which we supported, will modernize our nation's air transportation system and reduce frustrating, costly delays by more than 20 percent - saving consumers time and money. The House and Senate conference committee has encountered difficulties coming to consensus on this legislation, and the bill has yet to become law.
In the meantime, both the House and Senate have agreed on the need to pass a series of short-term FAA reauthorization extensions. These short-term extensions have authorized continued FAA operations and, until now, allowed Colorado airports to move forward with construction projects funded through the FAA's Airport Improvement Program (AIP).
However, on Friday July 22nd, Congress failed to pass another short-term authorization measure, and certain FAA functions have been shutdown. The ostensible reason for this delay was a disagreement between the House and Senate on provisions in the bill that relate to the Essential Air Service (EAS) program, which supports air service in rural communities. While FAA operations personnel - like air traffic controllers - are still on the job, this partial shutdown is having serious consequences for a number of Colorado airports.
Colorado has a relatively short summer construction season, and many airports set aside the summer months to complete much-needed improvement projects, such as runway improvements and repairs. For example, Congress' failure to pass a short-term extension has forced airport officials at the Loveland-Fort Collins airport in Colorado to consider cancelling already-planned improvement projects. Loveland-Fort Collins, a one-runway airport, had already cancelled summer flights to accommodate a $7 million runway rebuilding. Officials have said that they may be forced to shelve the project, which could lead to closures this winter and cost around 150 construction jobs, according to reports. At Pueblo Memorial Airport in Colorado, officials have said they may be forced to delay a $12 million runway rebuilding project. At the Durango Airport in Colorado, officials are concerned that an ongoing $3 million apron rehabilitation project - which employs 30 Coloradans - will receive a stop work order next week. And at the Denver International Airport, officials are concerned that the shutdown will affect scheduled concrete and asphalt work on a runway and maintenance on passenger loading bridges. These delays could affect the overall safety of Colorado airports.
Nationwide, an estimated 3,500 FAA workers began to be furloughed this past Saturday. In Colorado, at least 27 FAA employees have been furloughed - either sent home or forced to work without pay. We recognize and fully support Commerce, Science and Transportation Chairman John D. Rockefeller's introduction of legislation to end the furlough of these employees, even without passage of the short-term extension. But we must do more.
This shutdown is also costing the agency an estimated $30 million a day. A prolonged shutdown could have serious consequences on the solvency of the aviation trust fund and basic operations and safety at our larger airports. As noted by the Washington Post this week, Congress' failure to act makes no fiscal sense, because disagreement over the EAS program - which costs roughly $163 million per year - could cost the FAA many times that if the shutdown continues.
We understand that Congress continues to negotiate legislation that will raise the debt limit and substantially address our long-term debt concerns. At the same time, Congress must not allow this debate to prevent action on a short-term FAA extension. Such inaction only proves to the American people that Washington is broken.
Congress' failure to act and pass a short-term extension is preventing critical improvement projects from getting off the ground - projects that support and create good-paying jobs in Colorado and across the country. We urge you to work with Senate Commerce Committee leadership and the House of Representatives to resolve this issue quickly and work to pass a short-term FAA extension today.
Thank you for your attention to this important issue.