Kathy Castor: DOT Needs to Invest in Tampa International Airport

Last week, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Fla., called on U.S. Transportation Sec. Pete Buttigieg to replace the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) air traffic control tower at Tampa International Airport.

Castor wrote Buttigieg and FAA Administrator Steve Dickson on the matter.

“The Tampa Airport air traffic control tower and dedicated controllers have served us well for almost fifty years, but the tower is at the end of its useful life and is in need of replacement as soon as possible. In fact, the tower has been seriously deficient for a number of years. I toured the tower personally several years ago and was shocked at the state of the tower. I relayed my concerns to FAA at that time, and spoke with FAA officials in July 2015, and rather than proceed with replacement, the FAA chose to make repairs. Since that time, the conditions in the tower have deteriorated. At a time when the Congress and President Joe Biden are poised to make major investments in critical American infrastructure, the Tampa Airport air traffic control tower must be a top priority,” wrote Castor.

Jen McCoy, the local president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), backed Castor’s efforts.

“Some air traffic control facilities suffer from major physical infrastructure issues, while others have long exceeded their lifespan. TPA Tower is one of the oldest and in most need of replacement of all of FAA’s Core 30 airport air traffic control towers,” said McCoy.

Castor insisted that the project could be funded from the current infrastructure bill on Capitol Hill. The Florida congresswoman noted the infrastructure package “invests $25 billion in airports to address repair and maintenance backlogs, reduce congestion and emissions, and drive electrification and other low-carbon technologies” which includes $5 billion “for FAA facilities with an allocation of about $1 billion per year from fiscal 2022 through 2026 for air traffic control and tower equipment.”

Pointing to a host of repairs that are needed, Castor insisted a new air traffic control tower is needed.

“Rather than spend any additional funds on repairs, the most efficient use of tax dollars is to proceed with a full replacement of the tower as soon as possible. While the average age of FAA towers is 30 years, the TPA tower is 50 years. The multiple safety and quality of life hazards are a danger to the air traffic controllers and should be addressed before the flying public is put at risk. The air traffic controllers at TPA are critical to the safety and efficiency of this important Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) facility and the hundreds of flights that traverse the Florida and Gulf of Mexico airspace every day. The FAA must ensure that they are able to do their job without unsafe working conditions,” Castor wrote. “At a time when the Congress and President Joe Biden are poised to make major investments in critical American infrastructure, the Tampa Airport air traffic control tower must be a top priority.”

First elected to Congress in 2006, Castor is one of the top Democrats on the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee which oversees health policy among other things. Castor represents parts of Hillsborough County in a secure Democratic district. Back in November, Castor easily handled Christine Quinn, taking more than 60 percent of the vote. Castor is the chairwoman of the U.S. House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis.

KEVIN DERBY
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