April 06--Control towers at 149 smaller-sized airports, including Texas A&M's Easterwood, received a reprieve Friday when the federal regulators announced funding cuts would be postponed until mid-June.
The Federal Aviation Administration said it needs more time to deal with legal challenges to the closures, according to The Associated Press. The new cutoff date for federal funding is June 15. The suits contend that the closures violated a federal law meant to ensure major changes at airports do not erode safety, and unfairly targeted the program for an outsized share of the more than $600 million the agency is required to trim from its budget by the end of September.
If a funding workaround is not established by mid-June, Easterwood and 14 other affected control towers in Texas would likely receive temporary funding from the Texas Department of Transportation.
The Texas Transportation Commission, at the behest of Gov. Rick Perry, earlier this week approved funding to cover the 90-day operation costs of about $2 million.
Perry and transportation officials said keeping the towers operating is important for safety and commerce in Texas. Officials estimate it would cost about $7 million a year to keep the towers open, and negotiations are ongoing at local, state and federal levels on whether, or how, to fund the towers.
TXDOT spokeswoman Veronica Beyer confirmed that the state funds would still be available, if needed, in June.
"This is good news, and we appreciate the fact that the federal government is taking the time to re-evaluate its decision," she said.
University spokesman Jason Cook said administrators had not yet received official correspondence from the FAA and would hold off on releasing a statement until they did.
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