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Congressional In-Fighting Holds Up FAA Authorization Bill

July 25, 2011

Libby Casey, APRN – Washington DC, Casey Kelly, KTOO – Juneau & Shane Iverson, KYUK – Bethel

Fights in Congress are holding up approval of the bill that authorizes the Federal Aviation Administration.  Because lawmakers missed a deadline of Friday night to get it passed, the FAA is in partial shut-down mode. That’s put projects on hold and furloughed 4,000 employees nationwide – including 79 in Alaska.

Flights are still going and air traffic controllers are on the job.

But furloughed employees were sent home with no pay until Congress acts.

The off-the-job employees in Alaska are all based in Anchorage, according to the FAA.  Eighteen of them work for the division that issues grants for the Airport Improvement Program.  They also do the environmental reviews required before improvement projects move forward.  Until they’re back at work no more improvement project money will be released.

Steven Hatter, the state’s deputy commissioner for airports and aviation, says that means a hold up.

One of the projects that will likely be held up due to the partial shutdown of the FAA is the rehabilitation of the Deadhorse Airport.

It was on the cusp of getting funded, but that’s now on hold, and officials are worried that if the shutdown lasts too long the brief summer construction season will end.

The Department of Transportation says all told, nearly $70 million in construction dollars for Alaska are threatened, and in the immediate term, $7 million is on hold.

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