WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin, Ranking Member of the Environment and Public Works Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee, Senator Chris Van Hollen, a member of the Environment and Public Works and Appropriations Committees, and Representative David Trone, member of the New Democrat Coalition’s Infrastructure Task Force (all D-Md.) and Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), a member of the Senate Commerce Transportation and Safety Subcommitttee, today expressed their concerns to the Acting Under Secretary for Transportation Policy, the Honorable Joel Szabat, regarding the expected termination of the Essential Air Service (EAS) program at Hagerstown Regional Airport (HGR).
On October 11, the Department of Transportation issued an order to terminate EAS at Hagerstown. The EAS Program, funded through the U.S Department of Transportation (DOT), provides critical air service that connects rural and remote areas to major hubs, helping to grow area businesses and support economic growth. Without this program, it is difficult for smaller communities to attract and maintain a commercial carrier.
“This decision appears to ignore the significant progress the airport has made in complying with the program’s requirements and the apparent, growing demand for the service,” wrote the lawmakers. “We request, therefore, that you work with us and with the airport to continue the service and to limit the economic disruption.”
They noted that the airport’s recent data confirms compliance with the requirements for the program, and that discontinuation at Hagerstown would have adverse impacts for airports in other states. For these reasons, they urged the administration to retain EAS support for Hagerstown.
“A decision to follow through with the termination of the service contradicts the established policies for EAS while also doing a disservice to the federal government’s current $5.7 million investment in the airport’s terminal expansion to accommodate an increased number of passengers,” they continued.
Maryland’s federal delegation has continually advocated for this critical resource for the Hagerstown community and worked to help the airport comply with federal regulations for the program. Most recently, they wrote to Secretary Chao urging its extension in September of this year.
Full text of the letter can be found below and here:
The Honorable Joel Szabat
Acting Under Secretary for Transportation Policy
U.S. Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Avenue, S.E.
Washington, D.C. 20590
Dear Assistant Secretary Szabat:
We are disappointed that the Department of Transportation intends to follow through with a termination of Essential Air Service (EAS) at Hagerstown Regional Airport (Hagerstown) as indicated in your Order 2019-10-10 released on October 11, 2019. This decision appears to ignore the significant progress the airport has made in complying with the program’s requirements and the apparent, growing demand for the service. We request, therefore, that you work with us and with the airport to continue the service and to limit the economic disruption.
As you know, the continued success of EAS operations at Hagerstown is critical for operations in several other states, making this decision an issue of national concern. Hagerstown’s final data for Fiscal Year 2019 confirms that the airport is in full compliance with EAS requirements, including fulfilling the requirements enacted in the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 (P.L. 115-254) for subsidy per passenger as well as the minimum ten-passenger per-day average requirement.
We understand that at the time some of us met with you in September, you had not yet settled on a number for passengers-per-day, since your vetting process was still ongoing. Order 2019-10-10 further questions the validity of the airport’s data. We are disappointed that your review of Hagerstown’s circumstances did not provide any opportunity to resolve any discrepancies between data the Department deems acceptable and the data the airport presented to us.
A decision to follow through with the termination of the service contradicts the established policies for EAS while also doing a disservice to the federal government’s current $5.7 million investment in the airport’s terminal expansion to accommodate an increased number of passengers. Moreover, the termination will negatively impact services at other airports throughout the Mid-Atlantic, Gulf, and New England regions.
We request that you maintain EAS at the airport in recognition of its compliance for Fiscal Year 2019 or until any concerns with data are fully resolved.
Thank you again for considering our views on this issue, and we look forward to your response.