TxDOT offers emergency funding for airport towers

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The Texas Transportation Commission voted unanimously April 4 to provide approximately $2 million in emergency funding for air traffic control towers in 14 cities, including Georgetown and San Marcos.

Under the temporary funding agreement, the Texas Department of Transportation will fund 90 percent of the tower’s operating expenses for 90 days, and each city would be required to fund 10 percent of expenses. Georgetown City Council will meet at 10 a.m. April 5 to discuss the agreement, which could cost the city about $16,500.

Commissioners listened to more than one hour of public comments from representatives of the 14 Texas cities and airports affected by budget cuts triggered by federal sequestration.

“It was awfully great for them to step in and give us the funding for 90 days so we can have some breathing room and try to figure out how we are going to get through this issue,” Georgetown Airport Manager Sarah Hinton said. “Our hope is the federal government steps in and start funding these towers before the 90 days are up.”

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.

Georgetown’s tower had been set to close at 10 p.m. April 7.

When the airport loses FAA funding April 7, the emergency funding from TxDOT will kick in. 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 to $9 million.

State and city officials said they hope the temporary funding will give federal officials more time to refund the towers.

“It’s 90 days of good news,” San Marcos Aviation Manager Stephen 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

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