By Frank Miller
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is in partial shutdown as Congress has left Washington to return home for their summer vacation. The shutdown, which began July 23rd, is having a negative impact on airports across the country. The press is reporting on the nearly 4000 FAA employees that are going without paychecks and the more than 200 construction programs that have been stopped at various airports around the country. That is an important part of the story, but it isn’t the whole story.
Airports around the country are being left to wait, many of whom have bids out on projects that are waiting for Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funding from the FAA. These are safety and security projects. They are also projects that put engineers and design and construction workers on the job. Airports pride themselves on being an economic engine for our local economies and the FAA Shutdown is putting a major crimp in our ability to live up to that title. In addition, it is forcing airports across the country to postpone needed and planned construction projects.
Here in San Antonio we have two programs, with a combined value of $20 million that will be suspended. Our residential acoustical treatment program is an on-going, multi-year program that provides acoustical treatment to reduce noise in qualifying homes and multi-family dwellings. Since the program began in 2006 a total of 786 homes have benefited from the program. The program will be suspended on September 30 when the current funding is depleted. This is an example of not only the direct job impact on the local contractors who rely upon this program, but to the home owners who benefit from the acoustical treatment that not only improves the noise impacts of the airport but makes their homes more energy efficient. The second program is the extension of Runway 03/21. Phase III of the program was set to be advertised this month but will now be deferred pending the availability of funds.
Congress needs to fix this problem now. The longer the FAA Shutdown continues, the greater the damage to the entire national aviation transportation system. I want to take this opportunity to thank Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), ranking member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, who took to the Senate floor on Monday and did her best to bring reason to the debate in an effort to end the Shutdown. The Senator made it clear that the most important issue was getting the FAA back in working order so that airports, FAA employees and the construction industry could do what we do best; operate the safest aviation system in the world.
Frank Miller is the Aviation Director of the San Antonio Airport System and the Chairman of the ACI-NA Board of Directors.