MIAMI (CBSMiami.com) – The Federal Aviation Administration has halted dozens of major projects that dealt with construction and technology improvements, including a project at Fort Lauderdale -Hollywood International Airport.
The projects have been frozen due to Congressional inaction on a FAA funding bill. The stalemate in Congress revolves around a Republican push to make unionizing more difficult for airline and rail workers. The failure to approve the temporary funding extension has led to a partial FAA shutdown.
A dozen contractors working on the FAA’s runway status light project at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport were forced to walk off the job because the FAA can’t pay them. The lights help pilots to know when it’s safe to enter, cross, or take off on a runway.
“Very unfortunate for those folks and it’s also unfortunate for the airport….It is a safety enhancement feature that we were looking forward to having. (The partial shutdown) is slowing down progress, slowing down our ability to finish the project.” said airport spokesperson Greg Meyer.
FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt said stopping work on projects like the runway status lights will significantly increase the ultimate costs of construction for taxpayers.
The lack of a FAA funding extension has also forced the FAA to freeze grants that South Florida airport projects are relying on, including two multi-million dollar projects at Miami International Airport. Officials had planned to re-surface the diagonal runway and put a new roof on the newly remodeled north terminal.
“You don’t want leakage in a new area. We’ve got a lot of new stores in that area, the north terminal has become our jewel to a certain degree, so that’s important,”Miami International Airport spokesperson Marc Henderson told CBS4’s Natalia Zea.
Since the FAA bill stalled in Congress, around 4,000 FAA employees across the country have been furloughed. Only one South Florida employee, an engineer, was furloughed but local projects are still feeling the impact.
Projects like Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport’s planned south runway expansion require FAA employees around the country.
“The dialogue between the airport and the FAA has been suspended because the people we would normally deal with almost on a daily basis in Orlando have been furloughed,” said Meyer.
Passengers Zea spoke with are concerned about the partial FAA shutdown.
“Projects, once they start they should be completed,” said Shoman Goti.
Passenger Jerome Rush is frustrated with Congress failure to act.
“It’s gonna be laying a lot of people off and this economy needs as many people employed as possible.”