Planes Still Fly, But FAA Shutdown Blocks Airport Construction Projects
(With additional reporting from Illinois Public Media)
Thousands of contractors have been ordered to stop work on airport construction projects. Meanwhile, Illinois lawmakers continue to disagree over legislation needed to put those workers back to work.
The Federal Aviation Administration's operating authority expired Friday night - after the House and Senate couldn't agree on a bill to extend it.
U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) said he tried to pass a temporary version of the bill - but Republicans objected.
"This political brinkmanship may be somebody's idea of a victory," Durbin said. "It's my idea of a defeat for workers across America and for the maintenance and the construction of new airport facilities."
But Illinois Republican Congressman Randy Hultgren said his chamber is being proactive - passing a plan that Senate Democrats don't support.
"What they're doing is they're just kicking the can down the road another couple months each time that this happens," Hultgren said.
The modernization program at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport is not expected to be affected by the work stoppage yet. But according to the FAA, the $1.5 million re-paving of a parking lot there will not happen until Congress reaches an agreement.
Meanwhile, the manager of Champaign-Urbana's Willard Airport said a construction project slated to start this fall at his airport could be affected if the partial shutdown at the FAA continues.
Willard manager Rick Wanzek said the project to widen part of an airport taxiway is to be bid in August.
"If they're not back to operating, and if they haven't released funds for a grant, then that would delay the project," he said. "That would be a significant impact that - we wouldn't get a project done this year that we were hoping to get done."
But Wanzek said air traffic controllers are exempt from the shutdown at the FAA, which means flights can continue as usual. An FAA spokesman said investigators are still on the job --- including those taking part in the investigation of Sunday's fatal crash of a single-engine plane at the Rantoul Airport.
(AP Photo/Jim Prisching, File)