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FAA Reauthorization Paves Way for Airport Projects

Congressman Dan Lipinski calls legislation “critically important.

The U.S. Senate voted 75-20 Monday in favor of a long-term , following the lead of the House, which OK’d the bill on Friday.

The move will pave the way for FAA-funded projects throughout the Chicago area, including upgrades at Romeoville’s , Congressman Dan Lipinski, D-Third District, said after the House's vote.

“Finally, after a five-year delay, we have a long-term reauthorization of the FAA,” Lipinski said in a press release, adding:

It’s about time. This bill is critically important to the Chicago region, which depends on Midway and O’Hare airports for $45 billion in economic activity and 540,000 jobs. It will also provide grants for which smaller airports can compete, such as Lewis University Airport, which is upgrading its runways and planning for increased utilization to attract new companies, jobs, and economic growth. Aviation delays already cost an estimated $9.4 billion annually, and with the number of passengers expected to increase to 1 billion in less than a decade, we need this bill to expand the system’s capacity. Everyone in northeastern Illinois knows we need to cut down on the delays that plague our airports. This bill is absolutely essential to achieving that goal.

, Lipinski and Mayor John Noak met with an FAA official to emphasize the importance of federal funding for local projects, namely runway improvements and an air traffic control tower at Lewis Airport. With an estimated price tag of $10 million, the projects will bring Fortune 500 companies to Will County, Noak said.

The last long-term reauthorization of the FAA expired in 2007.

NextGen system to save money, fuel

The legislation approved Monday will not only help fund airport improvements, according to Lipinski — it will also facilitate the rollout of the NextGen satellite navigation system, which will replace radar-based systems to reduce traffic delays and save billions for airports and travelers. By 2018, Lipinski estimates the system will save $23 billion, 14 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions and 1.4 billion gallons of fuel.

“This is what the American people want to see: Congress working to get things done that boost job creation and competitiveness and fix the problems we face,” Lipinski said. “It took far, far too long to pass this bill. But now that we have, we need to build on this momentum, end the gridlock in Washington, and focus on doing what is right for the country.”

Union opposition

Despite the support of lawmakers, the reauthorization bill was criticized by union groups over a measure making it more difficult to organize new unions. The provision increased the threshold for seeking a new union from requiring 35 percent of workers’ signatures to requiring half.

On Monday, 19 labor groups sent out a letter lashing out at Democrats for passing the House version of the bill, which contained the anti-union provisions.

The letter, which was the work of unions including United Auto Workers, Communications Workers of America, the Association of Flight Attendants and the United Transportation Union, read in part:

“Rewarding the House Republican Leadership’s desire to rewrite decades of long standing labor law in a flash by inserting an unrelated and controversial labor provision  in a much needed aviation safety and security bill, without notice, hearing, or debate, sets an extremely dangerous precedent.”

The bill now awaits President Barack Obama’s signature.

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