Washington - Today, the Department of Transportation announced several actions meant to reduce air traffic congestion and flight delays in the New Jersey/New York region, including an intention to cap flights at Newark Liberty Airport, a cap on flights at New York's JFK Airport beginning in March, an auctioning off of new capacity at the region's airports and a beginning of the implementation of the regional airspace redesign.
Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), who has pressured the Department and the Federal Aviation Administration to take a regional approach to addressing delays and who is scheduled to meet with FAA acting Administrator Robert Sturgell at 5:00pm today, said that he is encouraged by the direction of this announcement but needs to see the follow through. He also called for a moratorium on the airspace redesign until a Government Accountability Office report requested by Rep. Rob Andrews (D-NJ) is released.
"I am cautiously encouraged that the Department of Transportation and FAA finally seem more committed to the bold ideas and regional approach that I have been calling for," said Sen. Menendez. "Of course, the final verdict will be determined by their follow through. I will be holding them to their word about crafting an agreement on caps at Newark, and I will want to ensure that those caps are set at an appropriate level.
"If it is followed through, this announcement would seem to contain the type of bold proposals to be implemented on a regional scale that it will take to put a significant dent in the exasperating delays and safety issues air travelers in our region are dealing with. All along, I have been pressing the FAA to approach this issue by taking the serious problems at Newark into account, and it seems that they are finally doing so. I will certainly be keeping a close eye on the implementation of these proposals to ensure they do what they say. I will also ask acting Administrator Sturgell this afternoon for more details about his agency's plans to work out a cap for Newark.
"One part of this announcement that I would like to see scrapped or at least put on hold is the airspace redesign for our region. I urge the FAA to put a moratorium on the redesign at least until the GAO issues its report. The redesign is a plan that will likely infuriate residents living along the new flight paths while having a minimal effect on delays. Rushing to implement the redesign while a government report is pending and while a number of communities are contesting it makes little sense."
Last week, upon reports that the DOT was preparing to announce flight caps only at JFK, Senator Menendez, along with Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), urged the Department and the FAA to take a regional approach (http://menendez.senate.gov/newsroom/record.cfm?id=288922&). It was not the first time Senator Menendez had urged such an approach (http://menendez.senate.gov/newsroom/record.cfm?id=286171). In August, even before flight caps meetings were convened, Senator Menendez urged the DOT and the FAA to consider a range of bold ideas to address delays, including caps (http://menendez.senate.gov/newsroom/record.cfm?id=281124).