The Federal Aviation Administration offered a reprieve Wednesday for Midway International Airport, reversing plans to close the air traffic control tower overnight.
Seventy-two airports including Midway were anticipating drastic staff reductions as a result of the so-called sequester or automatic budget cuts. Congressman Dan Lipinski, a Western Springs Democrat whose district includes Midway, said it was inexplicable why the airport had been targeted.
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Midway handles more than 250,000 operations annually and, if its tower was darkened overnight, the results would have been disastrous, Lipinski warned.
"I am happy the FAA has finally come to its senses, but leaving the airport employees and Midway neighbors in limbo this long was unacceptable and no way to run a major metropolitan airport," Lipinski said in a statement.
"Closing the control tower at Midway for any length of time would have a negative ripple effect on air travel throughout the country."
FAA officials offered little explanation, other than to say the agency "decided not to pursue elimination of overnight shifts at FAA-controlled towers," a spokeswoman said.
Lipinski is the region's only representative on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
The sequester was intended to be so Draconian it would spur Congress to end gridlock over the budget, but that's proven not to be the case. Although many sequester cuts hold, aviation is one area where lawmakers have chipped away at its effects.
Congress in April voted to free up $253 million in FAA revenues thus eliminating controller furloughs. Still under the gun are 149 FAA contract towers including Waukegan Regional Airport's that could close for lack of funding in mid-June.