House Transportation Committee leaders, on February 11, introduced long-term legislation to reform and fund FAA policies and priorities. Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John L. Mica (R-FL), Aviation Subcommittee Chairman Tom Petri (R-WI) and other members introduced the FAA Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2011 (HR 658).
Included in both the House and Senate versions of this bill is language created by Representative Sam Graves (R-MO) and Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) that forbids the FAA from stating that an airport is “in violation of a grant assurance…solely because the sponsor enters into an agreement that grants to a person that owns residential real property adjacent to the airport access to the airfield….” The section that addresses the residential through the fence (RTTF) issue is 136, said Brent Blue, organizer of www.throughfence.org, a web site for dissemination of information about this issue.
“This insertion of the RTTF language into the reauthorization bill will hopefully end the FAA’s factually unsupported and misguided attempt to ban residential through the fence activity,” said Blue. “We owe a great deal of thanks to Congressman Graves and Senator Wyden for helping stop the FAA’s illogical stance,” Blue added.
The FAA Reauthorization bill is expected to pass this year after many temporary extensions because most of the controversial provisions have been removed.
Among the remaining provisions included in HR 658 are:
· Four-year bill, covering fiscal years 2011 to 2014, with overall funding level of $59.7 billion.
· Bill provides approximately $4 billion in savings compared to current funding levels. It requires the FAA Administrator to identify significant cost savings without cutting any safety critical activities. In accordance with the House Republican moratorium, the bill contains no earmarks.
· Creates and protects more than 600,000 U.S. jobs over four years, according to estimates.
· Requires FAA to identify significant cost savings, while ensuring that cuts are not made to safety critical activities.
· For NextGen, the bill streamlines processes and provides funding for priority NextGen air traffic control modernization projects planned in the next four years. It sets deadlines and metrics for better measurement of NextGen progress and to ensure more effective cost management.
· Allows for expansion of the cost effective contract tower program, which allows airports to utilize privately operated, more efficient control towers (under FAA contract, regulation and supervision). Creates the potential to save approximately $400 million over four years.
· Sets up a process for the consolidation of aging, obsolete and unnecessary FAA facilities, which will result in significant savings.