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Getting There: Cuts will likely bring air travel delays

Mon., April 22, 2013

FAA to furlough 47,000 employees

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray last week said summer travel delays are likely at the nation’s airports as a result of congressionally ordered budget cuts at the Federal Aviation Administration.

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta told Murray at a hearing Thursday that the agency is ordering furloughs for 47,000 employees, including air traffic controllers, through September to meet a $637 million spending reduction that came as part of the so-called “sequestration” of federal funds.

Workers will take a day off without pay in each of the two-week pay periods, which amounts to a 10 percent cut in salary.

The same set of budget cuts also would eliminate funding for airport tower controllers at Felts Field and 148 other small airports around the country, all of which operate under contract with the FAA. Closure of the contract towers has been delayed until June 15. Spokane Airports is suing in federal court over the Felts tower closure.

Murray, who chairs an appropriation subcommittee, questioned Huerta during a hearing last week.

Murray, D-Wash., said airlines are telling her that the furloughs will result in air traffic delays.

Huerta did not dispute that. He said furloughs will affect the efficiency of the air traffic control system, hampering traffic at busy airports such as Los Angeles International and Chicago’s O’Hare International.

Huerta said the agency cuts will not jeopardize air safety.

However, Murray pointed out that the sequestration cuts will delay implementation of a new satellite-based air traffic system known as NextGen.

Murray used the hearing to repeat her call for a budget compromise that would restore the cuts.

The FAA’s sequestration cuts are part of the wider spending reductions ordered by Congress in 2011 but delayed until this year.

Huerta told Murray, “We have very few options.”

Huerta has submitted a $15.6 billion budget for the fiscal year that starts in October that includes money to restore the sequestration cuts.

Pull-over poll

Nearly two-thirds of all drivers in Washington and the Portland metropolitan area say they have been pulled over for traffic violations more than twice.

A quarter of drivers said they have been stopped four times, according to a new poll conducted for PEMCO insurance.

In Washington, half of all drivers said they don’t try to talk their way out of a ticket. Of those who try to get off the hook, about 40 percent claim that they didn’t know they had broken the law.

Another revealing statistic involved accident rates. Drivers who had been in two or more traffic accidents had been pulled over an average of 4.5 times.

Trail safety meeting

An open house is set for Wednesday on ideas for improving the safety of the Centennial Trail where it crosses Mission Avenue in east Spokane.

The meeting will be from 6:30 to 8 p.m. in the assembly room at the Northeast Community Center, 4001 N. Cook St.

The meeting will update residents on a study of alternatives.

“The goal of the study is to identify, develop, and evaluate alternatives to separate the Centennial Trail from motorized traffic, improve pedestrian mobility at the Mission Avenue crossing, and close the trail gap at that location. Alternatives that have been considered include tunnels, bridges, and at-grade crossings,” a city of Spokane news release said. 

Delays at Francis and Market

Construction work at Francis Avenue and Market Street is going to slow down traffic today.

A contractor working on the intersection will move traffic from the west side of Market to the east side, a change that will cause slowdowns, delays and congestion.

Market will be reduced to a single lane of traffic with flaggers directing drivers.

The intersection improvements are part of a contract to build a new overpass bridge on Francis Avenue over the future path of the North Spokane Corridor and BNSF Railway.

In addition, the city of Spokane has closed Francis from Haven to Crestline streets for reconstruction of the roadway. When the paving is finished on that section in June, work will move to the segment from Division to Crestline, which will be closed during the summer.

U.S. 195 intersection

Northbound traffic on U.S. Highway 195 is reduced to one lane of traffic at Cheney-Spokane Road, where work to build a new interchange is underway.

Drivers in the southbound lanes should be ready to slow down for drivers making right turns onto Cheney-Spokane Road.

Bridge closed

Spokane County has closed the Little Spokane River Bridge near Wandermere for utility and drainage installations as well as construction of a wall. Crews are also getting ready to build an approach to the new bridge.

Valley lane closures

In Spokane Valley, lanes on 24th Avenue from Adams to Sullivan roads have been narrowed to allow for sidewalk construction.

Curb lane closures are likely on westbound Sprague Avenue from Evergreen to Sullivan roads for installation of fiber optic cable.

Sullivan from the Spokane River to Trent Avenue will be reduced to one lane in each direction from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. starting today and continuing through mid-June for signal and stormwater improvements.

Sidewalk installation

A residential street paving project is getting started in southwest Spokane on 11th and 12th avenues as well as Spruce Street in the same vicinity. The project will include installation of sidewalks and curbs.

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