Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood Urges Swift Action by Congress on FAA Bill

In an effort to avoid airport project construction delays and employee furloughs, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Federal Aviation Administration Administrator Randy Babbitt (pictured at right) called on Congress today to pass a clean extension of the FAA’s authorization.

LaHood and Babbitt said they oppose the House bill because it includes controversial provisions that needlessly threaten critical FAA programs and jeopardize thousands of public and private sector jobs. The current FAA reauthorization expires at midnight this Friday, July 22, 2011.

Secretary LaHood said that Congress needs to stop playing games, work out its differences, and pass a clean FAA bill immediately, and that this stalemate must be resolved. LaHood also said that he wants to reassure the flying public that, during this period, safety will not be compromised.

Babbitt said that the agency is going to be forced to furlough valuable FAA employees unless the situation is resolved quickly, and that these employees do everything from getting money out the door for airport construction projects, to airport safety planning and NextGen research.  

Should Congress not extend the FAA’s authorities approximately 4,000 employees will be furloughed beginning Saturday July 23, 2011.  Without the appropriate authority, taxes will not be deposited into the Trust Fund to pay some FAA employees.  Employees who are paid out of the Trust Fund handle a variety of functions including: airport safety and engineering standards; airport safety planning; the Airport Improvement Program, which administers construction project grants to airports; and Research, Engineering, and Development, which includes NextGen research and testing.

Congress has extended the FAA’s authorization 20 separate times. During each of those short term extensions, the FAA’s Airport Improvement Program has only received small portions of its $3.5 billion in grant money.

The FAA will not be able to move forward on over $600 million in airport construction projects without a full year extension. Some of these projects include :

    GulfportBiloxi International Airport: proceed with construction of a terminal building expansion, rehabilitation runway lighting, rehabilitation of a taxiway, and rehabilitation of an access road.
    RichmondInternational Airport: proceed with construction of a new apron for terminal concourse A.
    Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport: proceed with construction of taxiway Y and Z rehabilitation.
    Laredo International Airport: proceed with the rehabilitation of the Engineered Material Arresting System which will help protect passengers if an aircraft leaves the runway.