With a possible federal budget sequestration looming on March 1, the Federal Aviation Administration could close the control tower at Livermore Airport and several other airports in the Bay Area.
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood and FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said other local air traffic control towers that could be closed include the ones at airports in Napa, Santa Rosa, Concord, San Carlos and Salinas. In addition, flights into major airports like San Francisco's could face delays of up to 90 minutes.
LaHood and Huerta issued a letter to other aviation officials on Friday warning of the possible reductions as Congress decides whether to avoid the automatic spending cuts.
The sequestration is based on legislation last year that said if no compromise was reached by the congressional Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction, then $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts will take place over the next decade.
The letter by LaHood and Huerta said those cuts would have a drastic effect on air travel, including the possible closing of more than 100
air traffic control towers nationally and elimination of overnight shifts at more than 60 others.
The proposed cuts could also mean one furlough day per pay period for the FAA's 47,000 employees, according to the officials.
The shutdowns would begin as soon as April, according to the letter, which said the reduction in air traffic controllers on staff would mean delays of up to 90 minutes during peak hours at airports in San Francisco, New York, Chicago and other major cities.
U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, denounced Congressional Republicans for not yet agreeing to a solution to stave off these potential cuts.
"These political games being played by the House Majority in Washington are costing real people their jobs here at home and unnecessarily putting people's safety at risk," Thompson said in a statement.
He said both the Napa and Santa Rosa airports would be forced to furlough or lay off a number of employees if those air traffic control towers
close, even temporarily.
Thompson added that planes in both airports would be operating in uncontrolled airspace, while nearly all flights there currently are during
controlled air times.
"Instead of this manufactured crisis, we need a balanced, bold plan that creates jobs, cuts spending, reforms our tax code so that everyone
is paying their fair share and protects Social Security and Medicare. That's what I'm working for," he said.