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Looming Sequestration May Affect Local Air Traffic

Federal spending cuts could force the closure of several Bay Area air traffic control towers, including the one at the San Carlos Airport.

By Bay City News Service

With a possible federal budget sequestration looming on March 1, the Federal Aviation Administration could close several Bay Area air traffic control towers and flights into major airports like San Francisco's could face delays of up to 90 minutes.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood and FAA Administrator Michael Huerta issued a letter to other aviation officials on Friday warning of the possible reductions as Congress decides whether to avoid the automatic spending cuts.

The sequestration is based on legislation last year that said if no compromise was reached by the congressional Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction, then $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts will take place over the next decade.

The letter by LaHood and Huerta said those cuts would have a drastic effect on air travel, including the possible closing of more than 100 air traffic control towers nationally and elimination of overnight shifts at more than 60 others.

The proposed cuts could also mean one furlough day per pay period for the FAA's 47,000 employees, according to the officials.

Local air traffic control towers that could be closed include the ones at airports in Napa, Santa Rosa, Concord, Livermore, San Carlos and Salinas.

The shutdowns would begin as soon as April, according to the letter, which said the reduction in air traffic controllers on staff would mean delays of up to 90 minutes during peak hours at airports in San Francisco, New York, Chicago and other major cities.

U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, denounced Congressional
Republicans for not yet agreeing to a solution to stave off these potential cuts.

"These political games being played by the House Majority in Washington are costing real people their jobs here at home and unnecessarily putting people's safety at risk," Thompson said in a statement.

He said both the Napa and Santa Rosa airports would be forced to furlough or lay off a number of employees if those air traffic control towers close, even temporarily.

Thompson added that planes in both airports would be operating in uncontrolled airspace, while nearly all flights there currently are during controlled air times.

"Instead of this manufactured crisis, we need a balanced, bold plan that creates jobs, cuts spending, reforms our tax code so that everyone is paying their fair share and protects Social Security and Medicare. That's what I'm working for," he said.

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Tom Ricks February 26, 2013 at 03:05 PM
Honestly...I am tired of this "the sky is falling" scare tactics that Washington (pick the party of your choice) uses on the public....The truth is the reduction is 2 1/2 %...that can be implemented ANY TIME over the next ten years......But the Dems want you to blame the Repubs....and the Repubs. want you to blame the Dems.....and the Prez. wants you to blame the Congress....This government is becoming even more disfunctional.....I wish I had a great answer...but I don't....except that I believe that we...as an electorate need to tell ALL of them (from the Prez on down) ENOUGH OF THIS FOOLISHNESS --START PUTTING THE NEEDS OF THE COUNTRY AHEAD OF THE DESIRES OF YOUR PARTY AND SPECIAL INTERESTS.....
Bill Doheny February 26, 2013 at 05:18 PM
Tom; Here, here, couldn't agree with you more on the scare tactics used by both parties and the press. From what I understand about the situation, this is a cut in the growth of the federal government spending of 2.5%, thus limiting the actual spending growth this year to 0.5%. Also, it is not $85 billion in cuts this year, but closer to $45, the remaining would be offset until next year. Based on the comments in the media, I suspect the money is already spent. How convenient that the cuts are going to impact the things that impact our daily lives.
TomR February 26, 2013 at 06:47 PM
Indeed 85 or 45... it is a drop in the bucket when you are looking at a 3.8 trillion dollar 2013 budget proposal. Sure any reduction in spending is going to be felt somewhere. What they don't advertise is that the eventual extraction from these trillion dollar deficits and zero interest rates is going to be incredibly painful, so much worse frankly for everyone then this silly argument we have now. The Fed is keeping interest rates artificially low by buying the current debt, but that 3-4 trillion dollar balance sheet eventually has to come back into the market, rates will rise along with inflation. It's going to be a real mess felt by all. But instead BOTH sides are more concerned about spinning, stoking the emotional fire, focusing on individuals or groups or stereotypes and associating blame to them. Frankly both sides agreed to the budget sequestration, because they couldn't police themselves and they understand that debt reduction has to be implemented. Now that it is here they are politically scrambling over this drop in the bucket. This article is another prime example of the spin.

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