Merkley, Wyden Introduce Amendment to Keep Air Traffic Control Towers Open

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Oregon Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden today cosponsored a bipartisan amendment that would keep open air traffic control towers in Oregon that are slated to be closed due to the automatic spending cuts known as the “sequester.”  This amendment would help five airports in Oregon — North Bend, Pendleton, Salem, Portland-Troutdale, and Klamath Falls — that are slated to close their air traffic control towers in April.

“Shutting down airports that mean jobs to local communities is a great example of what dumb cuts look like,” said Merkley.  “We need to make smart choices that help economies grow and give middle class Oregonians new opportunities.  This amendment is a common-sense fix to a senseless cut, and there are plenty more fixes needed.  I hope the Congress will wake up and realize that its job is to make the economy better and get its foot off the brake.” 

“There’s a lot in sequestration to criticize, but closing 189 air traffic control towers puts the safety of travelers in jeopardy,” Wyden said.  “This is a smart solution that takes unused FAA funding to keep passengers safe by keeping the towers open.”     

Earlier this month, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced plans to close 189 Air Traffic Control contract towers beginning April 7th.  The FAA must absorb a five percent cut in its FY13 budget due to the sequester.  However, the contract tower program is being reduced by 75 percent.  This legislation would make sure that the contract tower program is subject to the same five percent sequestration cut as other programs included in FAA and is not disproportionately targeted.

Closure of these towers would reduce safety and lead to job losses, not just at the airports affected but potentially to businesses that are impacted by the loss of commercial services.  Additionally, air traffic controllers perform a host of important functions, including separating aircraft, assisting with military and emergency response, and issuing safety and weather alerts.

The airports of North Bend, Pendleton, Salem, Portland-Troutdale and Klamath Falls provide economic drivers for the communities they serve through jobs, industry growth, tourism, and national defense operations.

The funding for this amendment would come from $50 million in unobligated FAA research and capital funds from prior appropriations bills.