FAA will not close the 149 contract air traffic control (ATC) towers that were scheduled for closure in June due the sequester, according to a statement issued by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood Friday.
The agency will keep funding the towers through the end of fiscal year 2013, after the recently enacted Reducing Flight Delays Act of 2013 allowed the transfer of sufficient funds to end employee furloughs and keep the towers open. The bill provided $253 million in funding flexibility, allowing FAA to transfer unused Airport Improvement Program funds to provide enough funding to end the furloughs, which lead to an increase in flight delays at some of the nation's busiest airports when they began in April.
Lawmakers and aviation industry groups voiced their opposition to the scheduled closures in recent weeks, after the agency originally issued a statement saying that the closures were necessary because of the budget cuts it suffered under sequestration.
"It’s been a long fight since our original amendment to prevent the towers from closing and preserve aviation safety was blocked from a vote,
but in the end common sense prevailed over politics,” said Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.).
The tower decision is temporary, as the agency did not say whether the towers would be closed when the fiscal year 2014 begins in October.
Additionally, LaHood said FAA will put "$10 million towards reducing cuts and delays in core NextGen programs and will allocate approximately$11 million to partially restore the support of infrastructure in the national airspace system (NAS)."