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TxDOT Providing Funds to Keep Texas Air Traffic Towers Open

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Due to sequestration-related budget constraints, the Federal Aviation Administration has announced plans to close 149 air traffic control towers around the country, including Texas.

But after Gov. Rick Perry’s asked the Texas Transportation Commission to step in with 90 days of temporary emergency assistance for Texas control towers, TxDOT decided to fund continued service of the control towers when federal funding goes away.

"Flying is an integral part of commerce in Texas," Phil Wilson, TxDOT executive director, says. "Local communities are counting on these airports to remain open for continued economic success."

In Texas, 13 air traffic control towers are set to be unstaffed from April 7, as a part of the federal budget cuts. Safety concerns have been raised about the risk of air traffic control towers without operators. Also, some worry that revenue will decrease because fewer people will use the airport.

"Safety is the primary reason we felt a need to take immediate action for the air travelers and business aircraft that use these airports," said Commissioner Fred Underwood with the Texas Transportation Commission.

TxDOT’s action should be approved in an emergency session this week. State officials estimate keeping the control towers open would cost $7 million a year.

Several air traffic control towers across the state are set to close, including the towers at airports including Georgetown, San Marcos and New Braunfels.