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FAA to close 149 control towers to meet budget cuts

March 25, 2013, Washington, D.C. - The Federal Aviation Administration said on Friday it will close 149 air traffic control towers at small airports across the country beginning on April 7 as it copes with automatic federal spending cuts.


March 25, 2013
Carey Fredericks

The White House and transportation leaders
have warned for weeks that the $85 billion in federal cuts known as
"sequestration" would force smaller airports across the country to
curtail operations.

 

The
across-the-board cuts started kicking in on March 1 because Congress was
not able to reach an alternative budget deal to replace them. The FAA
must absorb $637 million in cuts by September 30.

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Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said on Friday his department had tried to soften the blow.

 

The
FAA said another 40 towers previously slated for closure will remain
open, either because them shutting them would not be in the national
interest or because money was found in a federal cost-sharing program to
keep them open.

 

"We heard from
communities across the country about the importance of their towers and
these were very tough decisions," LaHood said in a statement.
"Unfortunately we are faced with a series of difficult choices that we
have to make to reach the required cuts under sequestration," LaHood
said.

 

The FAA does not expect any airports to have to shut down because of the tower closings, an agency spokeswoman said.

 

Republican
lawmakers expressed concern about the decision and asked LaHood in a
letter for the analysis showing that closing each tower, as well as so
many towers simultaneously, would not jeopardize safety.

 

Republicans
have repeatedly accused the White House of exaggerating the effects of
sequestration in an attempt to shift the blame for a failed budget deal
to Republicans.

 

"We are deeply
disappointed by the Administration's choice today to push ahead with its
proposed contract tower closings and are concerned about potential
impacts on aviation safety," said House of Representatives
Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Shuster and Senator John Thune,
the top Republican on the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation
Committee.