The Texas Transportation Commission voted unanimously April 4 to provide emergency 90-day funding for air traffic control towers in 14 cities, including San Marcos and Georgetown.
Commissioners listened to more than an hour of public comments from representatives of the 14 Texas cities and airports affected by budget cuts triggered by federal sequestration.
Jim Wimberley, partner with Texas Aviation Partners, the company that operates the San Marcos Municipal Airport on behalf of the city, urged the five-member commission to approve the order and not “mess with Texas on land or in the air.”
“In San Marcos we have a unique situation,” Wimberley said. “We are the only FAA-designated reliever airport that supports two international airports, those being in Austin and San Antonio.”
On March 22, the Federal Aviation Administration announced 149 air traffic control towers across the country would lose funding for air traffic control personnel salaries. The cuts will happen in waves, with 70 towers losing funding on April 7, 46 on April 21 and 33 on May 5.
When the airport loses FAA funding on April 21, the emergency funding from TxDOT will kick in. Stephen Alexander, San Marcos airport manager, said TxDOT would provide 90 percent of the funding and the City of San Marcos would cover the other 10 percent. TxDOT officials said the emergency funding will last 90 days, but if the commission decides to extend it on an annual basis, the funding will amount to $7 million-$9 million.
Alexander said the emergency funding will give the airport’s management team more opportunities to work out alternative funding from the city, Hays and Caldwell counties, TxDOT and “most importantly, the FAA.”
“It’s 90 days of good news,” Alexander said. “It’s a stay of execution, and it buys us some time.”
Commissioner Jeff Austin said the emergency funding was important for economic development in Texas.
“There are a lot of people who could potentially lose their jobs for this if we don’t take action and I would encourage our friends up in Washington to step up and get this thing funded,” he said.
The 14 airports receiving emergency funding include:
- New Braunfels Municipal
- Brownsville/South Padre Island International
- Easterwood Field in College Station
- TSTC Waco
- Lonestar Executive in Houston
- Georgetown Municipal
- San Marcos Municipal
- Dallas Executive
- Sugar Land Regional
- Stinson Municipal in San Antonio
- Collin County Regional at McKinney
- Tyler Pounds Regional
- Victoria Regional
- Texarkana Regional