East Bay News

FAA funding standoff leaves airport projects in limbo

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

The debt crisis is averted, but the government is on track to lose $1 billion in airline ticket taxes. Lawmakers have left town for a month without resolving another partisan stand-off involving the shutdown of the FAA and it is having a direct impact on airport construction projects in the Bay Area.

The half-finished new tower at Oakland International Airport, now abandoned and locked up tight has become a symbol of what's not happening in Washington. Construction workers have spent the past 10 days showing up to the job site in hopes that lawmakers would reach deal on the FAA. Now it appears there will be no point to showing up until after Labor Day.

"There's 100 airport projects across the country that have been stopped because of the fights in Washington and the inability to move the extension of the FAA," Oakland mayor Jean Quan said.

Quan appeared with labor leaders and Oakland port officials Tuesday to plead for an end to the congressional stalemate over reauthorization of the FAA. That authorization ended July 22, suspending construction on the Oakland tower and 150 other projects across the country.

A new taxiway at the San Jose airport is also on hold. There, about 60 workers have packed up and moved out. About 70,000 construction workers and 4,000 FAA employees have been laid off across the country.

At issue is $16.5 million in subsidies to rural airlines. Democrats wanted to extend the subsidies, Republicans did not.

"More and more it seems that some of our elected officials have fallen out of touch with reality," Alameda Building Trades Council spokesperson Pete Figueiredo said. "Put people before politics, let's get America back to work now and let's start right here on this project."

Tim Rickford is among the workers who are out of a job because of the stalled tower project.

"Everybody wants to play hardball and hardball hurt us," he said.

The standoff remains despite a last-minute call from President Obama urging lawmakers to make a deal before they leave for five weeks.

"It's another Washington-inflicted wound on America and Congress needs to break that impasse now," Obama said.

While Democrats blame Republicans for failing to take up the FAA issue, San Francisco Republican Party Chair Harmeet Dhillon sees things differently.

"This is really a failure of leadership, probably on the part of both parties; it seems like they were unable to reach an agreement over some fairly minor issues and I think the debt discussions in Washington have really poisoned the atmosphere," Dhillon said.

(Copyright ©2014 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.)

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construction, oakland international airport, jean quan, congress, oakland, east bay news
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