FAA furloughs hit Chicago, DuPage County

August 3, 2011

After battling over the debt ceiling, Congress went on vacation, and left some work unsettled. Without an agreement on funding for the Federal Aviation Administration, the agency was forced to furlough more than 4,000 employees across the country.

As of last week, there were 145 furloughed FAA employees in Chicago. The furloughed workers are the airport planners and supervisors on projects. Projects like the radar installation in DuPage County for incoming traffic from the west for O’Hare International Airport.

The furlough also means there is no one to distribute the $3.6 million in grant money to O’Hare — or to continue planning the runway status lights at O’Hare. Or to answer back Midway about the request for an extension to be put on the list for privatization.

“The Chicago Department of Aviation does not anticipate any funding impact to the portion of O’Hare Modernization Program projects that are currently under construction,” Chicago Department of Aviation Commissioner Rosemarie S. Andolino said in a statement. “However, the CDA is evaluating the impact on pending grant and PFC applications for other projects such as construction of a new taxiway, which is estimated to begin later this fall.”

Andolino said the CDA is “disappointed Congress has not passed a new FAA authorization or an extension, which is costing the federal government $30 million a day.”

The big picture is that the FAA stands to lose a serious chunk of change in the next five weeks until Congress is back in session. The FAA, when not furloughed, collects a ticket tax. But at the moment they’re missing out on all of that.

Chicago-based United Airlines stopped collecting the tax on July 23, according to Mike Trevino, a spokesman for United. For travelers, that means they are not paying the additional tax when buying a ticket on United or Continental.

"Travelers coming in and out of the O'Hare will not be affected by the furloughs," according to the Chicago Department of Aviation.

 

Correction: AMR Corp. owns American Airlines. A previous version of this story said they own United.