Thousands of Jobs at Stake as Airport Projects Halted

The FAA's operating authority expired at midnight Friday. Dozens of stop-work orders were issued over the weekend for modernization and improvement projects.

Thousands of jobs are on the line as airport construction projects in Los Angeles and across the country were put on hold after Congress failed to pass legislation to keep the Federal Aviation Administration operating, transportation officials said Monday.

"Because Congress didn't do its work, FAA programs and thousands of public and private sector jobs are in jeopardy," Secretary Ray LaHood told reporters in a conference call.

The FAA's operating authority expired at midnight Friday.

Dozens of stop-work orders were issued over the weekend for modernization and improvement projects.  Air traffic controllers have remained on the job, as well as FAA employees who inspect the safety of planes and test pilots.

About $131.5 million in construction projects at airports across the  state are likely to be affected including a $14-million control tower in Palm Springs and $31-million control tower Oakland, according to the FAA's website.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said congress must act to prevent job furloughs for nearly 4,000 FAA employees and construction jobs, many of whom are in California.

"With the heavy summer travel season already under way, we need Congress to pass extension legislation for the FAA now to avoid furloughs for 4,000 employees across the country,'' Villaraigosa said. "Our airports are not only our most important resources for moving goods and people, they are critical to creating jobs and putting Americans back to work.''

LAX is in the fourth year of a $4 billion-plus capital improvement campaign that includes expanding the Tom Bradley International Terminal, replacing the 50-year-old central utility plant that powers much of LAX and adding taxi lanes to make takeoffs and landings more efficient.

The suspension will not affect any of the construction projects under way at LAX, Los Angeles World Airports spokesman Michael Collins said.

He said LAWA -- a proprietary city department that manages its own funding sources and budgets for LAX and two other airports in Van Nuys and Ontario -- has already paid up-front project costs with $3 billion in bond money sold over the last three years. But the suspension of the FAA will mean delays in LAWA getting reimbursed for some developments that FAA has committed to pay for. 

"It would be good to get this thing resolved,'' Collins said. "It's not a life-or-death matter for airports like LAX, but it's hugely important for average-size airports.''

About $2.5 billion in federal airport construction grants cannot be processed because workers who handle those grants have been furloughed, officials said. That, in turn, has halted construction projects, putting hundreds of other people employed by those jobs out of work.

Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said he doesn't see any progress toward a resolution that would end the shutdown.

"I have no idea when we'll open the FAA again,'' he told reporters Monday.

Last week, the House passed what would be the 21st extension of FAA's operating authority. But this time Republicans included provisions in the bill that would eliminate $16.5 million in subsidies for air service to 10 small airports that are less than 90 miles from a hub airport and three other remote airports in Montana, Nevada and New Mexico where subsidies average more than $1,000 per passenger.

Senate Democrats say the House is trying to force them to accept policies that haven't been negotiated. They blocked passage of the House extension bill. Senate Republicans then blocked passage of a Democratic extension that doesn't include the air services subsidies provision.


Copyright AP - Associated Press
Contact Us