Sequestration has left plans to build a new control tower at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport in a holding pattern.
Design plans for the new tower, which cost the airport $1.3 million, were recently completed. But, according to airport officials, the project can’t move forward until the FAA, still reeling from a series of automatic federal spending cuts, follows through on a $6 million grant.
“Sequestration has affected our chances,” said Fredrick Piccolo, Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport CEO, referring to the FAA grant for the new control tower. “Even the idea of funding air traffic controllers is up in the air. There’s just so much uncertainty in federal funding right now.”
Sequestration refers to a series of automatic federal spending cuts for fiscal year 2013 amounting to more than $85.4 billion, with similar reductions planned for the next eight years of federal budgets. The cuts were included in the 2011 Budget Control Act, signed by President Obama, as part of an agreement with Congress to resolve the debt-ceiling crisis.
Piccolo said the current control tower, built in 1985, needs to be replaced due to line-of-sight issues that affect future airfield development.
“This isn’t a dire safety issue,” Piccolo said. “But the tower is on the wrong side of the airfield for how the airfield has developed. We have 40 acres of undeveloped land that we can’t use for future projects because of the current tower’s limited field of view.”
If the FAA funding is held up indefinitely, future expansion of airfield operations and civil aviation services will be limited, Piccolo said.
SRQ is asking for a $6 million grant from the FAA to match the amount already put up by the state. The airport will also contribute $6 million to the project.
When asked about the SRQ control tower grant, an FAA representative responded with a prepared statement: “Congress has not yet approved a budget for FY 2014 so we do not have an update regarding future funding allocations. The Administration continues to urge Congress to act to replace the damaging cuts imposed by the sequester with a balanced approach that reduces the deficit while protecting critical priorities.”
Piccolo said that the FAA grant is the only source of funding available for the $6 million needed to move the project forward.
“Now that the design’s done, it's just about getting the funding,” Piccolo said. “With sequestration, every dollar counts.”
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