Sept. 8, 2001


The feds, control, and future $$$

By Paul Bowers

September 2001

To say that we are seeing mixed signals coming out of Washington regarding our nation’s airports is quite the understatement.
In the wake of the hand’s-off attitude shown with the closing of Richards-Gebaur Airport in Kansas City and the uneven enforcement of noise standards in Naples, one senses that individual locales are free to work things out amongst themselves.
Now come proposals from Congress that would put the federal government squarely back in control of local airport decisionmaking.
An amendment to a national transportation spending bill offered by Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (R-IL) would force Chicago to work on its congestion problem via continuing operations of Meigs Field as well as the planning of a third airport.
Another bill introduced by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) would require any major airport identified as causing significant delays to the national system to begin pouring concrete within five years after being so cited or risk losing federal funds.
And, a House bill introduced by William Lipinski (D-IL) would prohibit a state, local, or political authority from requiring a certificate for approval before construction of an airport development project.
What are the chances of these becoming law? Not many. True to his Republican roots, President Bush will not want to become tangled into areas that are considered states’ rights. I fear that we are destined to continue along our tortured path of convoluted, slow decisionmaking with regard to regional airport growth.

Speaking of painful growth ... and lessons not learned.
Have you heard much recently about aviation’s plans to find the successor to AIR-21? Neither have I.
Yet, our brethren in public transportation have undertaken a massive campaign to influence a program to replace their funding source (TEA-21), which just happens to expire at the same time as AIR-21.
The Public Transportation Part-nership for Tomorrow (PT)2, introduced by the American Public Trans-portation System, is a nationwide education and outreach initiative designed to build support for public transportation among the public, and local, state, and federal officials. The goal: to positively impact investment and policy decisions (translation: to secure their share of federal dollars).
They are collecting millions of dollars from transit systems and their suppliers over a five-year period to help fund this massive PR effort.
The clock is ticking and AIR-21 will be history before we know it. Bud Schuster has retired; he can’t bail us out again.