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WNYC News

Storm Hits Thanksgiving Travelers

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

More than 550 flights have been canceled nationwide so far today — the bulk of them in the Northeast.

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The Brian Lehrer Show

How to Deal with Our Frustrating Airports

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Businessweek recently ranked the "most frustrating airports" and LaGuardia, JFK and Newark were in the top five. Here are some hacks to make holiday travel less painful.

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WNYC News

Newark Airport Begins Ebola Screenings

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Newark Liberty Airport is one of the five airports in the United States to screen incoming passengers for fevers and other possible symptoms of Ebola.

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WQXR Blog

Senator Seeks Clarification of Carry-On Rules After Musician Booted From Plane

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The government should clarify federal rules about bringing musical instruments on to commercial flights as carry-on luggage, U.S. Sen. Jack Reed said.

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WNYC News

All U.S. Flights to Tel Aviv Canceled Over Missile Fear

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

One plane was diverted mid-flight, after reports that a rocket landed near Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport.

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99% Invisible

120- Skyjacking

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The term "hijacking" goes back to prohibition days, when gangsters would rob moonshine trucks saying, "Hold your hands high, Jack!" However, in the early days of commercial air travel, the idea that someone would hijack a plane was scarcely even consid...

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WNYC News

Security Increased at JFK, LGA, EWR After Los Angeles Airport Shooting

Friday, November 01, 2013

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey says it has increased its airport patrols as a precaution in the wake of the Los Angeles airport shooting.

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The Takeaway

The People Behind the Speakers

Monday, July 29, 2013

Imagine there was a voice that could guide you though everyday activities. While this is still an impossibility, Jack Fox and Carolyn Hopkins—the voices of the subway, airport system, and many other automated announcement mechanisms—are the next closest things. They join us to discuss what it's like to have their voices in over 100 airports and transit centers in cities around the world.

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Transportation Nation

Plane Scare as Landing Gear Malfunctions on LGA Runway

Monday, July 22, 2013

WNYC

Officials say the plane skidded on its nose down the 7,000-foot runway before coming to a halt on a grassy area.

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Transportation Nation

CHART: Which Airports Have the Longest Customs Lines?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

WNYC

International travel is up, and so are the wait times at airports to pass through customs. (See chart below)

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Transportation Nation

Interview: John Mica Argues for Airport Expansion Over "Shortsighted" Airline Objections

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

WMFE

The former chair of the House Transportation Committee supports expanding the airport in his home district, but opposition is coming from an unexpected corner: airlines. Congressman John Mica (R-Fla.) speaks with WMFE's Matthew Peddie about an airport as an engine of regional growth.

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Transportation Nation

SFO Airport Now Has City's Most Valuable Art Collection Outside Museums

Monday, January 28, 2013

Under CC license from Flickr user Thom Watson

Terminal 2 at the San Francisco International Airport (SFO) has been praised for its modern architectural design, which takes into account the needs of post 9/11 travelers. For instance, T2 has comfortable Recompose Area where passengers can put back their shoes and belts after passing through security check.

Most of the shops and restaurants are also located within the reach from the gates, so that passengers can easily see their flight status. But there is something else that makes Terminal 2 special: its art collection. KALW's Artjoms Konojovs went to the airport, but not to catch a flight. Give a listen:

[mp3]http://cpa.ds.npr.org/kalw/audio/2013/01/WEB.SFOArt.mp3[mp3/]

You may not think of an airport as a place to see art or take an audio tour to learn more about its paintings and sculptures. People mostly come here for one reason: to travel.  But the City of San Francisco spent nearly two-and-a-half million dollars on artwork in Terminal 2. It's part of a city ordinance passed in 1969, which mandated that 2 percent of any construction costs be allocated to art enrichment or public art. As a result, SFO now has the most valuable public artwork collection in the city outside its fine art museums.

Above either side entrance to SFO’s Terminal 2 stretch huge artworks of hand-painted glass: bird wings to the left and airplane wings on the right. They are large, impressive, and, if you call a number posted next to the front door, they are explained.

“This artwork ‘Air Over Under’ plays with our experience of flight," says a recorded voice on the phone. "Seattle-based artist Nori Sato said that once we leave our standard point of reference – the ground, it can be hard to figure out where we are.”

Then, the artist picks up where that narrator left off. “Depending on where we are in the air,” says Sato on the recording, “we can be above the clouds, below the clouds, in no clouds, in the middle of clouds, and the image was constructed with that in mind.” It's like a museum audio tour, but in an airport and on your cell phone.

Susan Pontious, director of the Civic Art Collection and Public Art Program for the city Arts Commission, runs the art program at the SFO in terms of the permanent acquisitions.

Inside the terminal, two objects hang from the ceiling on either side of the terminal entrance, right in the middle of the check-in area. Both look like they are made from different sized pieces of plastic.

“These two pieces are called “Topograph” and are inspired by topography of the Bay Area – and they also kind of remind me of clouds,” says Pontious.

The artist very carefully considered suspension mechanism as part of her aesthetic.

“They always remind me of these upside down rain clouds which is very appropriate on a day like today,” says Pontious.

Before the security gates is a small lounge where people can wait for arriving passengers. Most of the walls are covered by artwork from Marc Adams: big red tapestries with bright flowers that were inspired by the Bay Area gardens. It creates a cozy living room-like atmosphere.

“It is a technique and craft that you don't see that much anymore. I think this is one of the reasons they are valuable to us. And they are just flat out beautiful,” adds Pontious.

Near the lounge are a series of doors used by airport personnel to access the gates. We pass through into the Recompose Area, where people put their shoes and belts back on after the security check. The area is bright and airy, and home to an installation called “Every Beating Second”.

“The inspiration for the artist was that this is a place where you maybe took a little bit of a time to look around you and maybe notice some things.”

“Every Beating Second” consists of three nets hanging down from the ceiling. Each is a mixture of pink, purple and blue. Looking closer, travelers who pause to look up can see the nets moving a little bit, as if hovering in a breeze.

If you find yourself waiting for a flight at SFO, take a moment and look around. You can enjoy one of San Francisco's newest, most sophisticated, and expensive art galleries. It's arrived at Terminal 2.

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Transportation Nation

NY's Airports So Old, Millionaire Is Putting Up Private Fortune to Lobby for Renovations

Monday, January 14, 2013

LaGuardia Airport (photo by Alex Goldmark)

Real Estate mogul Joe Sitt knows how to court the jet set. He's the head of Thor Equities, one of the city's biggest landlords for high end retail and offices. And as he sees it, New York's aging airports are holding the region back. "The experience [in our airports] is pitiful," Sitt said.

And he's putting up $1 million of his personal money to change it.

His campaign to overhaul New York area airports launched last week isn't an expensive personal quest for a better travel experience. It's an unusual lobbying campaign in the public (and also self) interest.

A 2011 report by the Regional Plan Association found that NY area airports need to expand and upgrade air traffic technology if they are to keep up with forecasts of air travel growth. Average flight delays at NY area airports are already twice the national average. A 2008 study (pdf) by the Partnership of New York City estimated that if New York's airports aren't modernized, it could cost $79 billion in losses to the regional economy between 2008 and 2025.

"What's one of our business fears? Businesses moving out of the city," said Sitt, the landlord of about 40 buildings, many in tourist hot spots like 5th Ave and Meatpacking. "I love New York City. It is creative. Every tech company should want to be here. But from an infrastructure, transportation, airport [perspective], no offense, versus San Francisco, we fail. They put us to shame out there."

His group the Global Gateway Alliance will lobby all levels of government to invest more in infrastructure for air travel.  "I think government needs some prodding. This needed somebody to carry the torch," Sitt said.

It's not the first time business leaders and planners have called for investment -- the RPA launched the Better Airports Alliance in 2011 -- but Sitt's $1 million of seed money makes the new effort more serious from the start. "It's really the first time we've had a comprehensive, well funded effort to focus on the great need for airport improvement," said Kathy Wylde of the Partnership for New York City, who has joined the board of the Global Gateway Alliance. Lobbying, she said will pressure all levels of government and could include public messages like TV commercials.

The agency that runs NY airports concedes upgrades are needed.  “We recognize that some of our facilities are aging and in need of capital infrastructure investment to ensure the continued economic growth of the region," said Port Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye. "The Port Authority and our airline partners invested over $1 billion in 2012 on infrastructure projects at our region’s airports, which includes construction of high speed exit taxiways, terminal improvements, and runway rehabilitation. Additionally, the Port Authority is in the process of establishing a public/private partnership to invest $3.6 billion on a new Central Terminal Building at La Guardia.”

 

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Transportation Nation

Local Restaurants Hope for Rebirth at LAX

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Bradley International Terminal at LAX under construction. (Shereen Marisol Meraji/KPCC)

(Corey Moore - Los Angeles, KPCC) If you’ve flown American Airlines out of LAX's Terminal 4, then you may have wolfed down a meal at Chili’s. Staffers says the airport Chili’s – with its cheesesteak sandwiches, combo Fajitas and baby back ribs – is the most popular of its U.S. franchises.

But in a few months, Chili’s won’t be in Terminal 4. Neither will Burger King. And eventually, the old Starbucks will go away.

Chili’s will soon be replaced by Campanile. It's one of 15 local eateries that will be opening in the Bradley Terminal and Terminal 4. It will be a rebirth of sorts for the historic Los Angeles restaurant known for its prime rib and sautéed halibut. Last October, Campanile closed the doors at its home of more than 20 years, on La Brea Avenue near Hancock Park.

RELATED: Campanile regulars reminisce as restaurant prepares for move

Renowned chef Mark Peel owns the business. He says he started planning to relocate to LAX more than two years ago. Peel says first the epicenter for food moved away from his location on La Brea, and then hard times hit.

“Business softened up during the recession," he says. "There are certain standards we maintain, and we can’t maintain them if we’re not making money, so it became essential that we try something else.”

Peel looks forward to a turnaround at LAX, even though his new place will be only a quarter the size of his old one.

“Campanile is projected to do $8 million a year (at LAX). I want to beat that," Peel says. His goal is to make $10 million a year.

Kimberly Ritter-Martinez is an economist with the LA Economic Development Corporation. She believes that more travelers are looking for higher quality food at the airport – and local options.

“Los Angeles did a very good job of developing the L.A. brand," she says. "So bringing in local businesses, [these] are very attractive offerings.”

Airport authorities say that’s why they sought out iconic Southland businesses such as Campanile, Real Food Daily, La Provence and Cole’s. They’re among the six opening in Terminal 4. Nine more are coming to the Bradley Terminal.

Officials say all of the incoming restaurants are working to keep their prices at the same level as if they were operating outside of the airport.

Peel says that some of the staff from the restaurants that are closing will end up working at Campanile and other new establishments.

“They’ve rotated people off jobs, kept them on the payroll, partnered with Trade Tech downtown," he says. Those workers have entered a 9-week cooking school taught by L.A. Trade Tech instructors to put them in line for jobs at the new restaurants.

In the meantime, Peel is preparing for Campanile’s grand opening at LAX, sizing up his space, researching ingredients, and working up a list of suppliers.

He’s focused on reaching that annual $10 million dollar goal.

“Think about it as $30,000 a day – this is seven days a week and its going to be open 16 hours a day if not a little bit more," he says. "Breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s absolutely doable.”

Construction begins this month. The plan is to have the new Campanile and the other new restaurants at LAX up and running by May.

Follow Corey Moore on Twitter.

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Transportation Nation

Northern Virginia Road Expansion: Betting on Dulles Airport as Freight Hub (Part 2)

Friday, December 21, 2012

There's already construction in the area, building new lanes, but planners are contemplating an entirely new highway. Pictured: Express Lane Construction on I-495 at Route I- 66 (Photo by Trevor Wrayton, VDOT)

This is the second of a two-part series on plans to expand Northern Virginia’s road network and freight capacity of Dulles International Airport. (Part 1)

To elected officials and Virginia transportation planners, Dulles International Airport is an untapped well of economic growth. However, maximizing its potential will necessitate major improvements of the surrounding road network.  That includes completion of a “north-south” corridor which is now in the conceptual stages.

On Dec. 12 the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority unveiled its intentions to pursue development of airport properties, including 400 acres on Dulles’ western side and sixteen acres around the future Rt. 606 stop of the Silver Line. The goal is to enhance the airport's industrial capacity as a freight hub.

“We are the only airport on the east coast with that kind of land available to us for development purposes. Cargo is down at Dulles right now, but it is down because of the economic uncertainty in Europe,” said Loudoun County Supervisor Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn). “The problem we have today is there is no easy access from the airport. The only access we have today is Rt. 28 and 28 is very limited.”

At their monthly board meeting, MWAA officials emphasized the importance of both expanding the Dulles Loop – Routes 606, 28, and 50 – and eventually connecting it to the north-south corridor.  Studies to expand all three roadways are underway.

MWAA CEO Jack Potter indicated the agency would take a cautious approach to development.

“We do not want to make an investment either at Rt. 606 or in the western lands to put a lot of infrastructure in there. We are not going to build something and hope that somebody comes,” he said during a presentation to the MWAA board.

Elected officials in Loudoun County who support the “north-south corridor” concept see Dulles as a key to future economic growth and the roads it will require as relief for traffic-weary commuters.

"Anybody who lives in Loudoun County knows that more road capacity is necessary,” said Supervisor Matt Letourneau (R-Dulles). “Keeping roads small doesn't prevent growth from happening.”

Environmental groups opposed to the construction of a multi-lane, divided highway west of Dulles Airport question whether the expansion of freight is the right goal.

“There are only so many pounds of freight that you can move on an airplane in an economical way. I think it is less than one-tenth of one percent of freight in Virginia comes by air. It is going to be an important economic activity but it is not the major way to move freight in the United States,” said Chris Miller, president of the Piedmont Environmental Council.

In his view, the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Northern Virginia master plan and MWAA’s development ideas amount to a move in the wrong direction, toward sprawl-inducing road expansions that could undermine the ongoing investment in the Silver Line rail project, scheduled for completion in 2018.

“I think the people who move west of Dulles Airport aren’t looking for another interstate highway with trucks on it to serve their neighborhood,” Miller said.

Miller uses the term “outer beltway” to describe the north-south corridor concept, a term that chafes supporters.

“If you want to unlock the potential of our economic engines – and Dulles is the biggest economic engine that we have in Northern Virginia – you’ve got to be able to tie it back to the other industries. If you look on the other side of the river, we have a large biotech industry in the I-270 corridor,” said Supervisor Buona.

“If you are able to create a [transportation] link between that industry and the IT and government contracting set, and that link connects to the airport, what you’ve done is create a corridor of commerce. You have not created an outer beltway,” he added.

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Transportation Nation

United Airlines Left a Little Girl Alone in an Airport, Twice

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

(Armando Trull, WAMU-- Washington, D.C.) United Airlines is coming under fire from some parents and travel advocates for outsourcing a program that escorts minors flying alone from one flight to another. On at least two occasions recently, young girls have been left alone at busy airports because the escort failed to show up.

John Galbreath of Bethesda, MD paid United Airlines a $99 fee so his 12-year-old daughter, Charlotte, who was flying alone from Wyoming, would be escorted to her connecting flight at Chicago's O'Hare airport. Charlotte arrived successfully at Reagan National Airport Sunday, although her father was more than a little upset.

"Ninety-nine [dollars] for peace of mind, which I didn't get," Galbreath said. "They outsource it to a third party, the meeting of the passenger."

No one met her at the gate in Chicago, Charlotte said. "I just kind of looked at the screen and went where I was supposed to," she said.

This past June, Phoebe Klebahn, a 10-year-old girl flying alone on United Airlines from San Francisco to her summer camp in Michigan, was left to wander for two hours because her escort didn't show up at the gate. Her parents, Anne and Perry Klebahn, got a frantic call from camp staff to say their daughter wasn't on the flight.

When they called United's customer service, they were directed to a call center in India and kept on hold for 40 minutes as they waited, terrified, to hear their daughter's fate, the girl's parents wrote in an angry letter sent to United.

Phoebe was found unharmed. Meanwhile, Galbreath and United confirm he’ll get his $99 back.

 For more on this story, listen to the audio version at WAMU 

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Transportation Nation

Live NY Traffic Map...And Everything You Need to Know to Stay Sane on the Roads & Rails This Weekend

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Traffic started backing up on Thursday afternoon along the blocks approaching the entrance to the Holland Tunnel in Manhattan. (Photo by Kate Hinds.)

The American Automobile Association projects 34.8 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home during the four-day Memorial Day holiday weekend, an increase of 1.2 percent - or 500,000 travelers - from the 34.3 million people who traveled one year ago.  That's despite relatively high gas prices (though they're a bit lower than they were last year at this time.)

In the New York-NJ-PA region, some 3.7 million Americans are expected to drive to their Memorial Day weekend destinations, the AAA says.

NY-NJ Port Authority spokesman Steve Coleman says that bi-state authority is "expecting about 5 million people to travel either by air or car thru our facilities, either the crossings over the Hudson River, or through any of our major airports." He said that's about a three percent increase over 2011 numbers.

Travelers will no doubt be fleeing New York by every mechanized means possible. If you live in the New York region, below is a handy guide for planning your escape.

If you're driving, the NYC DOT will show you just how agonizing your trip will be via its live traffic cams.

(While we're at, California readers can check here. )

The NY MTA will be adding extra trains for the Memorial Day weekend. For details, go here.  You can also subscribe to the authority's free email or text message alerts, or use Tripplanner+ (see top right hand column) to plan your ride ahead of time.

New York City Subway

Subway customers are reminded to use the A, C, D or Q instead of the B. They should also take the J instead of the Z.   Passengers can bring bikes on the subway, 24-7.

Metro-North Railroad

Beginning at noon on Friday, Metro-North will offer extra early afternoon departures from Grand Central Terminal on all three lines – Hudson, Harlem and New Haven.  No bikes on trains scheduled to depart Grand Central Terminal between 12 Noon and 8:30 PM on the Friday before Memorial Day weekend.

MTA Bridges and Tunnels

MTA Bridges and Tunnels will suspend all routine maintenance work beginning 1 p.m. on Friday through the end of the morning rush on Tuesday. Reminder: speed up your trip by using E-ZPass.

Long Island Rail Road

The LIRR will be adding extra trains on Friday.  No bikes on many LIRR trains this weekend (regulations here.)  Monday's train operate on a Sunday schedule.

Staten Island Railway

MTA Staten Island Railway will add extra trains on Friday beginning at 2:30 p.m. from the St. George Ferry Terminal. There will be one express train and one local train awaiting every boat until 7:50 p.m.

Port Authority of New York and New Jersey will be suspending all routine maintenance work on its bridges and tunnels, and all of its toll booths will be at "full staff." Go here to sign up for travel alerts about traffic conditions at Port Authority crossings.

The agency’s airports are expected to carry 1.53 million passengers. New customer service representatives will be deployed at airports to help passengers navigate terminals and find things like rest rooms, bus stops and taxi stands.

Sign up here for Airport Alerts that send info about weather delays, parking lot capacity, and AirTrain service delays. 

The PATH train will run extra trains as necessary on Friday. On Monday, trains will run on a Sunday schedule. Travelers can also text their origin and destination on the PATH system to 266266, and receive up-to-date service information.

New Jersey Transit will suspend all construction on state highways from 6 a.m. Friday until noon Tuesday.

 

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WNYC News

Avatars to Assist Travelers at Area Airports

Monday, May 21, 2012

Air passengers will also soon encounter what the Port Authority is calling the first use of avatar technology at North American airports: holograms in the form of customer service representatives.

View a video of the customer service representative hologram.

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Transportation Nation

NY Airport Workers Live Below Poverty Line

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Jared and Corin/flickr

(New York, NY -- Alex Goldmark) About a quarter of employees who work in New York area airports — including some who have jobs in security — make wages that are below the poverty line, according to a new study released this week.

Workers at JFK, LaGuardia and Newark airports who screen luggage, check tickets, clean airport bathrooms and assist customers in wheelchairs earn, on average, $16,640 a year, according to a study released Wednesday by NYU's Women of Color Policy Network and the Wagner School of Public Service. That's 25 percent below the federal poverty line for a family of four.

Area airports employ about 67,000 people. Of those, nearly 17,000 are what's known as passenger service workers — almost all of whom work for companies contracted by airlines. Researchers surveyed 300 of these workers, who are predominantly people of color, and found that the average wage was $8 an hour and the most common wage earned by these workers was the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.

Noting that 20 percent of those surveyed report being on government assistance such as food stamps, study author Nicole Mason said, "this means the public is paying twice" for these services: Once in the price of an airline ticket, and then in taxes that go to the social programs these employees frequently rely on.

Lakisha Williams, 29, has been working at Newark Airport for eight years. She started off as a baggage pre-screener and is now a wheelchair attendant. She said she pays for rent with Section 8 vouchers, uses food stamps and is on Medicaid.

"Basically I've just been at the airport for eight years for making the same minimum wage, $7.25," Williams said. "It's very unfair... I mean I have a 12-year-old daughter. She is very expensive, very expensive. I have to sit her down and let her know, tell her mommy is doing her best."

Study authors point out that workers employed by companies contracted by the Port Authority — the agency in charge of the airports — earned more than those who work for companies contracted by airlines. They blame the low wages on a practice by the airlines that awards contracts to the lowest bidder.

The head of the Port Authority, Patrick Foye, said he had not read the report, but has directed his staff to review it to see if there are any actions the agency should take in response. He expressed support for union hiring, touting his own experience as a union member in high school.

Full time workers union workers earn 29 percent higher wages nationally, than non-union workers he pointed out. Sixty-eight percent of Port Authority workers are represented by 13 different unions, he pointed out.

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Transportation Nation

Senate Backs FAA Deal, Sends to President

Monday, February 06, 2012

(Washington, D.C) Twenty-four times a charm.

The Senate gave final approval Monday evening to a four-year authorization of the Federal Aviation Administration, breaking a sorry streak of 23 temporary authorizations going back to 2007.

The 75 to 20 vote sends the bill to President Obama, who is expected to sign it into law. It authorizes about $16 billion in spending each year on the agency. The bill governs significant parts of airport and runway programs, air traffic control, airline safety, and navigation regulations.

Lawmakers reached a deal in January that included a compromise on federal union rules. Democrats agreed to increase from 35% to 50% the proportion of workers at a company who must petition for unionization before a shop can vote to organize. While the deal paved the way for the FAA bill to enter final negotiations, it also enraged several unions. They've been letting Democrats know about their displeasure with the deal, and it helps explain why 14 Senate Democrats, many of them with heavy union backing, voted against the final package. Sen. Bernie Sanders, a liberal Vermont Independent, also voted against the bill.

The deal also continues the controversial Essential Air Service, a subsidy program designed to encourage airlines to fly to out-of-the-way and unprofitable airports. House Republicans had tried to kill the subsidy, but some Senate Democrats representing rural states, kept it on board.

Passage of FAA's authorization represents a detente from partisan clashes over the summer. One even lead to a partial shutdown of the agency lasting more than a week. But it is unclear whether bipartisanship will reign over other, larger transportation issues in Congress. The Senate is now moving toward taking up a 2-year, $109 billion Highway Bill reauthorization. If it passes it will go up against a 5-year, $260 House GOP alternative slated for floor action next week.

The House bill contains many controversial provisions, including opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling. It's also likely to include an attempt to force approval of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

Follow Todd Zwillich on Twitter @toddzwillich

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