FAA shutdown puts Md. airport money in limbo
Nearly $1 million in grant money intended for Maryland airport construction is being held by the federal government because of the 12-day-old partial shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration, U.S. Transportation Department officials said Thursday.
The money is part of roughly $2.5 billion in grants the FAA has set aside for construction projects across the country this year that cannot be distributed because the agency shuttered its grant payment system when Congress failed to pass a short-term funding extension this week.
In addition to the grant money, the shutdown has forced several Maryland contractors to consider furloughing employees.
Administration officials distributed state-by-state grant numbers at a briefing Thursday with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who has been ramping up pressure on lawmakers to return to Washington and end the stalemate. LaHood, a former Republican member of the House from Illinois, has noted that an estimated 74,000 workers nationwide have been furloughed during the impasse.
"We're asking Congress to come back from vacation, pass the bill, and put 70,000-plus people to work," LaHood said. "Whenever they want to pass something, they can do it very quickly. They know how to fix this."
The FAA stalemate has largely flown under the radar as Congress wrestled with raising the nation's debt ceiling. After that issue was resolved Tuesday, lawmakers returned to their home states for the summer recess. Leaders in both political parties have blamed each other for the holdup.
The FAA has issued stop-work orders for six projects in Maryland, including a new radar system at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport that helps manage traffic on runways and taxiways. In addition to an unknown number of private sector workers, seven FAA employees in Maryland have been furloughed.
And LaHood said there would "absolutely" be additional stop-work orders if the shutdown continues. Asked to assess his confidence that Congress will return and pass a funding measure for the agency, LaHood paused before answering, "Stay tuned."