White House Budget Includes Funds To Replace Aging TPA Air Traffic Control Tower


TAMPA, FL — It’s the most critical facility at any airport, but you’d never know it by the looks of the air traffic control tower at Tampa International Airport.

When the Federal Aviation Administration first opened the control tower at Tampa International Airport on July 15, 1972, it was the tallest control tower in the United States.

Now, more than 50 years later, it is among the oldest control towers still in use and its age is evident in the rust visible on the metal exterior of the control tower cab. The electrical system is outdated, the control tower has plumbing problems, the structural concrete is deteriorating and it’s in desperate need of a new roof.

Especially irritating is the elevator, which frequently stops working, forcing the air traffic controllers to trek 20 stories up the stairs to reach the control tower cab. On Oct. 30, one of the air traffic controllers was trapped in the elevator for over an hour.

“The air traffic is growing and, with that, our building continues to degrade,” said longtime air traffic controller Jen McCoy. “I think we all can agree that controllers should be in the most modern facilities with the most up-to-date equipment.”

Find out what’s happening in Tampawith free, real-time updates from Patch.

The important thing is, President Joe Biden agrees. He’s officially put a new control tower at TPA on FFA’s list of towers set to be replaced.

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, announced the news during a media conference underneath the aging tower on the north side of TPA’s main terminal.

She said she brought up the need for a new tower while flying aboard Air Force One on President Joe Biden’s February visit to Tampa.

“I said, ‘Mr. President, in Tampa, we have the best airport in the world. It’s the pride of our community, but this air traffic control tower is not up to the standard that we expect,’” Castor said.

She then handed the president a packet of information and communications between her office and the FAA.

“He took my packet, and before we had landed in Tampa, he said, ‘Kathy, I’m going to take care of this.’ And sure enough, when President Biden released his budget (on March 9), he included the funds to update and build a new air traffic control tower here at Tampa international Airport,” Castor said.

Castor said she wasn’t alone in lobbying for a new air traffic control tower at TPA.

“I want to thank the bipartisan Tampa Bay Congressional Delegation,” she said. “They’ve been supportive all the way along, and we’re going to need them to make sure that this gets through the appropriations process.”

In January, Castor led the Tampa Bay Congressional Delegation in urging Federal Aviation Administration Administrator Steve Dickson to include Tampa International Airport’s air traffic control tower on FAA’s Replacement List.

She said the delegation has been working for six years to replace the tower due to its age and deteriorating condition.

Now, with Biden’s signature on the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, $25 billion could be available for infrastructure at the nation’s airports to keep the traveling public safe. This includes $662 million to replace seven FAA towers, including the one at TPA.

While there is no specific deadline to approve the White House budget, the fiscal year starts Oct. 1 and the budget is usually approved before that date.

This wasn’t the first nudge the delegation gave to the FFA. Castor wrote to Dickson and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg in August about this issue in a letter signed by Florida Congressmen Gus M. Bilirakis, Charlie Crist, Vern Buchanan, Scott Franklin, Daniel Webster and W. Gregory Steube.

“While the airspace in Florida is one of the busiest in the country and any impact in the Tampa Bay region could have an impact on our national airspace, the condition of the tower is a concern to us all for the safety and security of the FAA workforce and the traveling public,” said Castor.

“Over the past six years, we have been working to have the tower at TPA replaced due to the age and condition of the tower,” she said. “We just believe that the controllers need to be in an environment that enables them to focus on the job at hand.”

Tampa International Airport CEO Joe Lopano thanked Castor for her ongoing work to help bring a new tower to TPA.

“We’ve been at this since I got here in 2011, and Kathy knew this was the one issue that we really need help on in Washington,” Lopano said. “Controllers work every day looking out for the traveling public, and they deserve to have the best facilities in the country.”

No timeline has been set on when construction on a new tower might begin, but Tampa International Airport has designated a potential site west of the Airport Marriott. The Federal Aviation Administration is currently analyzing the property for a future tower.

Get more local news delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up for free Patch newsletters and alerts.


Source link

Leave a Comment