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"Columbus airport surviving FAA mess"
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Columbus airport surviving FAA mess
No construction work halted, board says after partial shutdown
By Marla Matzer Rose
THE COLUMBUS (OH) DISPATCH
The head of the Columbus Regional Airport Authority yesterday condemned the
political atmosphere in Washington that led to the partial shutdown of the
Federal Aviation Administration.
Having just returned from a legislative conference for airport executives in
Washington, Elaine Roberts, the authority's chief executive, called last
week's meeting the "most depressing" one she'd been to in 20-plus years as
an airport official.
"It's politics, politics, politics," said Roberts, speaking at the
authority's board meeting. "It's politicians acting like schoolkids."
Non-essential FAA operations were shut down Saturday morning after disputes
over a couple of Senate provisions in the FAA reauthorization bill kept it
from being extended for the 21st time since 2007.
Port Columbus is in "good condition" compared with the vast majority of
airports because it will not have to halt work on its new runway, Roberts
said. Many other airports - particularly those with projects being directly
managed by the FAA, rather than having a reimbursement agreement as Port
Columbus does - have had to halt projects for now.
Another major project at Port Columbus is being financed mostly by federal
stimulus funds, which are not affected by the FAA situation. The addition of
a $51 million baggage system that will eliminate the need for passengers to
carry their checked bags to a second location for screening remains on
track, Roberts said.
Meanwhile, passenger totals at Port Columbus in June remained flat compared
with the previous June, with a little more than 596,000 people using the
airport. For the first half of the year, passenger activity increased 1.3
percent from the same period last year.
Cargo volume continued to decrease at Rickenbacker airport. About 10.8
million pounds of cargo moved through that airport in June, a 15.5 percent
David Whitaker, vice president of business development for the authority,
said the majority of the decline has come as FedEx has pushed more cargo
through its hubs in Memphis and Indianapolis. Airport officials continue to
work on attracting more international cargo flights that would serve
industries such as the textile and automotive businesses, he said.
Whitaker also noted that Limited Brands' Bath & Body Works closed its
airport store last week after 13 years. He said the store had suffered since
a liquids ban was enacted for fliers several years ago.
The airport's concession business is in active discussions to fill the
prominent space at the pre-security entrance to Concourse B before the end
of the year, Whitaker said.
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