FAA budget dries up
Work at local airports waits while dispute festers in D.C.
Neil Nisperos, Staff Writer
Created: 08/03/2011 09:16:38 PM PDT

A partial shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration over a partisan flap in Washington has affected airport projects in the Inland Empire and jeopardized jobs.

The shutdown, caused by a standoff between Democratic and Republican lawmakers over additions to proposed FAA funding legislation, has affected federally funded construction in San Bernardino and Barstow. But Ontario airport officials stressed that safety has not been compromised.

At Barstow-Daggett Airport, a $2.5 million project to improve lighting, grading and taxiways will not move forward unless Washington lawmakers can agree by September to work out their differences, said Mike Williams, the director of the San Bernardino County Department of Airports.

The two-phase project – which had been estimated for a spring completion – is on hold because the FAA employees who would have approved the federal airport grant that funds the construction aren’t working, Williams said.

New construction would have meant jobs in the “low hundreds” for the area, he said.

“This will have some impact on the economy, considering that those employees, even if they aren’t living in Barstow, they can go to Barstow, purchase gasoline in Barstow, and go to local stores,” Williams said.

At L.A./Ontario International Airport, officials stressed that the shutdown will affect grant funding at several airports but will not affect safety.

In San Bernardino, Bill Ingraham, the aviation director for the San Bernardino International Airport, said much of the airport’s $1.8 million airfield-improvement project, which began in January, has been funded and completed. The work has employed dozens, Ingraham said.

Still, the shutdown has created an issue for Ingraham, with a $30,000 change order still needing to be approved by the FAA, and work set to be completed next week.

Ingraham said the work will continue, but the remaining money will be provided through the airport’s own revenue fund.

“The biggest impact in all of this is nobody is collecting the revenues to pay for all these grants and, as of today, it hasn’t been collected,” Ingraham said. “Right now, the lost revenue is $336 million, and that hasn’t been collected for airport projects (nationwide) due to the fact that the authority has not been renewed or extended by the Congress.”

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