FAA Cancels Budget-Driven Closure Plan; 149 Towers Stay Open

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The Federal Aviation Administration on Friday canceled budget-driven plans to close 149 air traffic control towers at smaller U.S. airports, two weeks after Congress passed legislation to end furloughs of air traffic controllers.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said federal officials determined the legislation gave the FAA enough flexibility to keep funding the towers, which had been scheduled to shut down in June for several months to save money.

"This victory is thanks to a bipartisan coalition of senators and congressmen and women who came together to demonstrate that there are more responsible ways to cut spending than by compromising safety," Sen. Jerry Moran, a Kansas Republican, said in a statement welcoming the decision.

The White House announced plans for both the furloughs and the tower closures earlier this year to meet automatic spending cuts required by Congress under the so-called sequestration law aimed at reducing the U.S. budget deficit.

Congress sprang into action after the rolling FAA furloughs caused delays at major airports across the country.

At the time, Moran insisted the legislation also contained flexibility for the FAA to transfer funds to keep the control towers open, but Transportation Department officials said they needed to review it before making a decision.

LaHood said the FAA would also put $10 million towards reducing cuts and delays in a new air traffic control program that is being installed around the country, and planned to use an additional $11 million of its funding to partially restore its support of infrastructure in the national airspace system.

By Reuters