LaHood, Babbitt urge passage of FAA bill

Aug. 1, 2011 at 1:37 PM
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NEW YORK, Aug. 1 (UPI) -- Members of Congress shouldn't go on recess before extending the Federal Aviation Administration's operating authority, transportation chief Ray LaHood said.

After Congress allowed the FAA's last extension to expire July 22, the agency was forced into a partial shutdown that temporarily put about 4,000 employees out of work and grounded dozens of construction projects across the country.

Among the suspended projects is a $6 million venture to demolish a decommissioned FAA airport traffic control tower at LaGuardia International Airport in New York that employed 40 workers, the transportation secretary said Monday as he visited the demolition site with FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt.

"Members of Congress should not get on a plane to fly home for vacation without passing an FAA bill and putting thousands of people back to work," LaHood said. "Congress needs to do its job for the good of these workers, for the good of our economy and for the good of America's aviation system."

The longer the FAA goes without operating authority, the further behind its construction projects fall, Babbitt said.

"We need our 4,000 FAA employees and tens of thousands of construction workers back on the job so we can get critical projects moving again while it's still construction season," Babbitt said. "Congress must act quickly before leaving for the August recess."

The nation's air travel system is not affected by the 4,000-plus furloughed workers or the status of tens of thousands of airport construction workers under FAA contract, Babbitt said. Air traffic controllers remain on the job and airline operations continue normally, he said.

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