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Congress Stalemate Affects FAA Employees At BWI

WASHINGTON (WJZ) — The newest stalemate in Congress is having a major impact on the nation’s airports.  A funding dispute in Washington has shut down the FAA, putting tens of thousands of people out of work across the country. 

Derek Valcourt has more on the impact here locally.

Passengers aren’t noting the difference; it’s construction contractors feeling the pain.

The nation’s air traffic controllers are still hard at work at BWI Thurgood Marshall and airports around the country, but it’s the rest of their FAA co-workers and their contractors who are now furloughed and out of work.  Their offices are now empty, smack in the middle of a partisan Congressional fight over federal funding.  It’s outraging Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

“I’m asking Congress to come back and do for the American people what they’ve been talking about: put 75,000 people back to work,” LaHood said.

At issue is a $16 billion funding extension.  It’s normally routine but debates over union issues and government subsidies for seldom-flown routes have Congress at another impasse.  It’s a standoff that’s furloughed thousands of FAA employees, stalled 150 airport construction projects and cost $200 million in ticket taxes, lost because the FAA has no authority to collect them.

Both sides are blaming each other.

“It has already cost us $360 million.  This is from the party that is worried about fiscal responsibility,” said Rep. Steny Hoyer.

Already, the FAA issued stop work orders, affecting $14 million worth of Maryland projects, including work on a new radar system at BWI that would monitor traffic on airport runways.

“It’s a huge headache and, to be frank, ridiculous,” said BWI Executive Director Paul Wiedefeld.

Wiedefeld says not only is the shutdown stopping work on current projects in the middle of this construction season, they’re left without FAA workers to approve future construction projects.

“Every month that passes, we are pushing the envelope of when we can do work next season for some major work that we want to do, so that’s the biggest impact that we’re worried about right now,” Wiedefeld said.

The FAA funding standoff has now entered its 12th day.

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