Combined Staff And Wire Reports
6:01 PM EDT, March 22, 2013
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration said on Friday it will close 149 air traffic control towers – including six in Connecticut – beginning on April 7 to meet required automatic spending cuts.
Another 40 towers previously slated for closure will remain open, the agency said in a statement.
Towers at Sikorsky Memorial in Bridgeport, Danbury Municipal, Groton-New London, Hartford-Brainard, Tweed-New Haven, and Waterbury-Oxford are among those slated to close.
"We are deeply disappointed by the FAA's decision," said a written statement from Sen. Richard Blumenthal and Sen. Chris Murphy. "Closing air traffic control towers at all six of these airports, including one that provides commercial service, will cause needless harm to the residents who work there and the regional economies that depend on their services."
The two Connecticut senators plan to introduce legislation that would restore federal funding for the towers, according to the statement.
"We heard from communities across the country about the importance of their towers and these were very tough decisions," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said. "Unfortunately we are faced with a series of difficult choices that we have to make to reach the required cuts under sequestration."
FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said the agency would work with affected airports and operators to ensure procedures are in place to maintain a high level of safety.
New Haven Mayor John DeStefano expressed disappointment with the FAA's decision to close the Tweed-New Haven airport tower.
"It's unfortunate that important public policy decisions, that have significant impact on our economy and public safety, are being made as a result of sequestration," said DeStefano in a written statement. "This tower closure will do little to help grow Tweed which is fast becoming an economic engine within the region."
In early March, the FAA proposed closing 189 contract air traffic control towers as part of its plan to meet the $637 million in cuts required under budget sequestration.
The agency said on Friday it had decided to keep 24 of the towers open because closing them would have a negative impact on the national interest.
Another 16 towers under a "cost-share" program were spared because the required 5 percent cut to that portion of the budget did not require the towers to be closed.
A Reuters report was included in this story.
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