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Sequester Could Greatly Impact Md. Airports

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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Among the many areas impacted if the automatic spending cuts take effect–Maryland’s airports.

We could see widespread delays at BWI, and smaller airports shut down completely.

Kai Jackson has more on the looming travel crisis.

National leaders are bracing the public for the worst case scenario. Those we talked with at BWI Marshall hope travel nightmares will be avoided.

A budget battle in Washington, D.C. could have a ripple effect on air travel across the country.

Related Story: Gov. O’Malley Worried About Automatic Spending Cuts

The Obama administration is warning: the so-called sequester could be devastating.

“Flights to major cities like New York, Chicago and San Francisco and others could experience delays of up to 90 minutes during peak hours,” said Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood.

It’s a high stakes debate, with $85 billion in potential cuts on the line.

“I think for the most part it’s posturing, both sides. So yeah, it’s posturing,” said Charles Krell, Ellicott City.

Transportation officials say sequestration could force furloughs of air traffic controllers. As a result, control towers in cities across the country would close.

In Maryland, the towers at five regional and local airports could close if the spending cuts take effect–like Martin State Airport in Baltimore County.

“These controllers provide an important function. Particularly in the congested busy airspace and particularly when weather is an issue,” said Jonathan Dean, BWI Marshall Airport.

It’s also possible that TSA screeners could be furloughed at the nation’s busiest airports. If that happens, travelers are being warned to expect delays of 90 minutes or more.

Passengers at BWI Marshall Airport tell WJZ any delays greater than what they already experience would be a big headache.

“As someone who travels for business it’s certainly of concern. You know I’m in airports two to three times a week so the last thing I need is to spend any extra time,” said Darcy Johnson.

Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski says sequestration could cripple air transportation and the economy.

If spending cuts do take effect, the control towers at regional airports would shut down starting April 1.

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