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After FAA Shutdown, Resumption Of Airport Construction Won't Happen Overnight

Thursday, August 04, 2011 - 08:41 PM

Runway reconstruction at Sea-Tac Airport in Seattle. (Photo by Michael @ NW Lens / Flickr)

(New York, NY - WNYC) About 74,000 transportation and construction workers are looking forward to getting back to work on more than 250 airport construction projects now that Congress has agreed to re-authorize the Federal Aviation Administration.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Transportation said in an email that, "FAA employees can go back to work the day after the law is signed by President Obama. If the bill is passed by the Senate and signed by the President [on Friday], that would be Monday."

But FAA engineer Dan Stepko warns many of those projects have lost more than the two weeks during which workers were furloughed while Congress wrangled over the agency's temporary re-authorization.

"There's going to be a lot of carnage in the wake of this shutdown," he said. "Projects don't just start and stop, especially projects that are in the tens of millions of dollars. If you're down for a week, it's going to take two to three weeks to get going again. Construction equipment has to be rented again, workers have to be rehired in a lot of cases."

Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, appearing on Hardball with Chris Matthews, also lamented the loss of time "smack dab in the middle of the construction season." He said construction workers count on employment during the summer to make it through bad-weather seasons when fewer jobs are available. "This is their bread and butter," he said. "This is when they make their money."

Despite the sigh of relief breathed by Stepko, LaHood and the entire U.S. aviation industry, Congress must vote to re-authorize the FAA again when it reconvenes next month.

You heard right. In six weeks or so, the wrangling starts again.

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