Ben Cardin - Senator for Maryland

Cardin, Mikulski, Ruppersberger, Delaney Call On U.S. Department Of Transportation To Postpone Plan To Close Federal Contract Air Traffic Control Towers

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Barbara A. Mikulski along with Representatives C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger and John Delaney (all D-Md.) today called upon U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Ray LaHood to postpone plans to close federal contract air traffic control towers, including at five Maryland regional airports, as members of Congress work on efforts to cancel sequestration.

“While we continue to call on President Obama to work with Congress to immediately eliminate sequester, we urge you to postpone closures of the federal contract towers until we reach the outcome of these discussions.  We strongly believe all five [air traffic control] towers should remain open because of national security,” members of the Maryland delegation wrote. “We also urge you to take another look at the adverse economic impact of closing the Maryland towers. The peak spring and summer season is fast approaching. The closures will jeopardize the economic security of these communities and counties.”

U.S. DOT Secretary LaHood has announced that  sequester will slash more than $600 million from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) resulting in mandatory furloughs for nearly 47,000 air transportation employees and the closure of 149 federal contract air traffic control towers across the country. Air traffic control towers nationwide with fewer than 150,000 flight operations or 10,000 commercial operations annually are going to be closed. The Maryland closures would negatively impact national security as well as regional economic security.

According to U.S. DOT, the following Maryland regional airports would see their air traffic control towers close later this month or in May:

  • Easton/Newnam Field
  • Frederick Municipal Airport
  • Hagerstown Regional Airport
  • Martin State Airport
  • Salisbury-Ocean City Wicomico Regional Airport

The letter to Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood follows:

April 4, 2013

The Honorable Raymond H. LaHood

Secretary

U.S. Department of Transportation

1200 New Jersey Avenue SE

Washington, DC 20950

Dear Secretary LaHood:

While we continue to call on President Obama to work with Congress to immediately eliminate sequester, we urge you to postpone closures of the federal contract towers until we reach the outcome of these discussions. 

We are well aware of the challenges the U.S. Department of Transportation faces because of sequester, especially the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).  Sequester was never supposed to happen.  Chairwoman Mikulski tried to include language in the Continuing Resolution that would have given domestic agencies flexibility to shift an additional one percent of funds to help mitigate the most harmful impacts of sequester, such as the problem the FAA is currently facing with these contract towers.  Unfortunately, this authority was not included in the final bill. 

As you know, there are five towers scheduled to close in Maryland later this month and in May:  Easton / Newnam Field; Frederick Municipal; Hagerstown Regional; Martin State; and Salisbury-Ocean City: Wicomico Regional.  We strongly believe all five should remain open because of national security.  Martin State serves the Maryland National Guard.  Easton and Salisbury are home to medevac units for the Maryland State Police.  The U.S. Coast Guard operates out of Easton and the airport is put on standby during Presidential and Congressional events.  In addition, closing the Frederick and Hagerstown towers will prevent the President and other dignitaries from using these airports as a transfer point to Camp David. 

We also urge you to take another look at the adverse economic impact of closing the Maryland towers.  The peak spring and summer season is fast approaching.  The closures will jeopardize the economic security of these communities and counties.   

You have our word that we will continue to fight to put an end to sequester.  In the interim, we would appreciate your prompt attention to our request.

Sincerely,

Benjamin L. Cardin                               

United States Senator                                                

Barbara A. Mikulski                                                   

United States Senator

C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger                                        

Member of Congress

John Delaney 

Member of Congress                                                  

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