U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is warning that if the federal government’s sequester becomes a reality next week, several small airports could be affected, including Renton Municipal.
LaHood on Friday sent out a letter detailing the Transportation Department’s plans for dealing with the sequester – the package of cuts that go into effect by law March 1 if Congress does not act to stop it – include furloughs of the “vast majority” of the Federal Aviation Administration’s 47,000 workers and the closure of more than 100 air traffic control towers at small airports, including Renton.
The cuts are designed to help reduce the FAA’s budget by approximately $600 million.
“We are aware that these service reductions will adversely affect commercial, corporate and general aviation operators,” LaHood said in the letter. “We also expect that as airlines estimate the potential impacts of these furloughs, they will change their schedules and cancel flights.”
LaHood said this was “just the beginning” of discussion on how best to make the cuts with the least negative impact to travelers.
Other changes the department is considering include eliminating midnight shifts in more than 60 air traffic control towers across the country and the reduction of preventive maintenance.
LaHood also warned that flights to major cities such as New York and Chicago could experience delays of up to 90 minutes during peak hours because of a lack of staffing.