U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), Chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, on Wednesday, continued her fight to keep federal contract air traffic control towers across Maryland and the nation open. In remarks on the Senate floor, Senator Mikulski spoke out in support of the bipartisan fiscal year 2014 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD) Appropriations Bill, which is being debated by the Senate and includes $130 million in the federal checkbook to keep 149 federal contract air traffic control towers across Maryland and the nation open through fiscal year 2014.
"This bill deals with the FAA’s contract tower program, a subject of much debate during last year's Continuing Resolution proceedings. I remember a real debate with Senator Moran on how we could keep those airports open. They are the first to be hit by sequester. I’ve got five of them in Maryland. They're in communities like Easton. And the Frederick Municipal Airport that the President uses periodically for coming to Camp David. And also Hagerstown, Martin State, and one serving Salisbury and Ocean City," Senator Mikulski said. "These towers are important for two reasons, national security and economic security. So we're looking at how we can make sure we keep these towers open so airplanes can come and land safely and take off safely and aid the commerce of our communities."
The THUD bill passed by the full Appropriations Committee by a bipartisan vote of 22 to 8 in June and is the first of the fiscal year 2014 spending bills to be considered by the full Senate.
Funding is set to expire at the end of FY13, putting five Maryland contract towers in danger of closing including: Easton/Newman Field, Frederick Municipal Airport, Hagerstown Regional Airport, Martin State Airport and Salisbury-Ocean City Wicomico Regional Airport.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Transportation had announced plans to close 149 federal contract air traffic control towers across the nation due to sequester. In April, Congress passed legislation giving the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) flexibility to shift funding to prevent furloughs of air traffic controllers and keep the air traffic control contract towers open. That legislation signed into law by President Obama ensures continued operations through September 30, 2013.
Senator Mikulski and Team Maryland have continued to fight for Maryland’s regional airports, which play a key role in maintaining Maryland’s robust economy.