U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Federal Aviation Administration Administrator Randy Babbitt made a demand to Congress on Monday, that they pass an FAA bill before flying home for the August recess. The two joined with local contractors and construction workers at LaGuardia Airport.
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.
FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt said they need the agency’s 4,000 employees and tens of thousands of construction workers back on the job so they can get critical projects moving again while it’s still construction season. Congress would need to act quickly to make it happen before adjourning for the August recess.
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.