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Friday, July 29, 2011 - 1:40pm

FAA Shutdown Stymies Planning

Updated: 3 years ago.
The FAA shutdown isn't affecting passengers who need to fly to or from Georgia airports. But it is having an impact on some construction projects at state airports. Airport directors say they can't plan without guarantees of long-term FAA funding.

Congress’s failure to extend the Federal Aviation Administration’s funding has blocked some airport projects. And the lack of a long-term funding agreement for the FAA is limiting airport directors’ ability to plan.

Congress has been paying for FAA operations with temporary funding bills since 2007. That means the FAA can’t plan five years ahead.

Columbus Airport director Mark Oropeza says the current shutdown hasn’t affected the airport because it’s between construction projects.

But he says he can’t plan long-term because an airport like his depends on FAA funding to complete a big project.

“It might take three years to do the project. And the FAA only gets funded one year at a time," Oropeza said. "But if you have a long-term funding mechanism, you know that the FAA will be funded in year two and year three. Then you’ll go out and do that project because you may be able to front the money or borrow the money but you’ll get reimbursed in years two or three because the FAA has the authority to do that.”

The weeklong FAA shutdown hasn’t affected flights or safety at Georgia airports because air traffic controllers remain on the job.

And it won’t derail a runway improvement project set to begin Monday at Augusta Regional Airport. Spokeswoman Diane Johnston says the funds are already available.

“What we have working is an airport project that will be funded through the aviation improvement program trust fund," she said. "It’s money that has been set aside for us that are drawing against as we reimburse the contractors that are working on our project."

The FAA shut down last week because Congress couldn’t agree on the agency’s funding. In the meantime, the impasse has ensnared Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia says Delta’s anti-union lobbying efforts are holding up the agency’s reauthorization.

Delta did not provide comment by air time.

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