Texas to pay to keep flight towers open

Texas will pick up the tab to keep open 13 air traffic control towers that were to be closed because of the sequester. 

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said last week it would close 149 air traffic control towers to reduce its spending by $600 million. The cuts were necessitated, it said, by the across-the-board spending cuts known as sequestration. 

The Texas Department of Transportation cited safety in announcing it would pick up the tab. 

“Safety is the primary reason we felt a need to take immediate action for the air travelers and business aircraft that use these airports," Texas Transportation Commissioner Fred Underwood said in a statement. "I am proud of our leaders for taking this extraordinary measure to ensure that those relying on these municipal airports will be able to depart and arrive safely and efficiently."

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FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said last week that the closures would not impact passenger safety. 

“We will work with the airports and the operators to ensure the procedures are in place to maintain the high level of safety at non-towered airports,” Huerta said. 

Congressional Republicans have accused the FAA of choosing to make cuts that would have a negative impact on airline passengers to score political points. 

The FAA countered by stating that the sequester requires it to make equal cuts across its budget. Federal agencies are required to cut about 9 percent of their total 2013 spending under the law.

The FAA said the air traffic control towers would begin to close April 7.

Texas Transportation Department Executive Director Phil Wilson said there were too many closures in Texas. 

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

When the FAA announced the final list of flight tower closures, the agency said it was only closing facilities where it contracts with private companies to monitor flights.

The agency has operated its Contract Tower program since 1982.

The flight towers that will receive funding from Texas are the following airports: New Braunfels (BAZ); Brownsville (BRO); Easterwood Field College Station (CLL); TSTC Waco (CNW); Lone Star Executive Houston (CXO); Georgetown Muni (GTU); San Marcos Muni (HYI); Dallas Executive (RBD); Sugar Land Regional (SGR); Stinson Muni San Antonio (SSF); Collin County Regional (TKI); Tyler Pounds Regional (TYR); and Victoria Regional (VCT).

-This story was updated with new information at 11:20 a.m.