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Waukegan airport receives funds to keep control tower open

Control tower Waukegan Regional Airport. | Sun-Times Media

Control tower at at Waukegan Regional Airport. | Sun-Times Media

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Updated: March 17, 2014 1:53PM

Threatened with shutdown during last year’s sequestration drama, the control tower at Waukegan Regional Airport is set to receive dedicated funding through the 2014 fiscal year under an appropriations bill advancing through Congress this week.

In a statement issued to Waukegan Regional officials announcing the developments on Tuesday, Jan. 14, Spencer Dickerson, executive director of the U.S. Contract Tower

Association (USCTA), called the funding a “huge victory” for facilities that rely on local tower control.

“On behalf of the nation’s 252 airports with FAA contract towers, we thank the leaders of the House and Senate appropriations committees for their recognition of the role contract towers play in enhancing the safety and efficiency of the nation’s aviation system,” Dickerson said.

“By providing guaranteed funding to the program as part of the omnibus spending bill, congressional leaders have made clear their view on a bipartisan basis that FAA contract towers provide real value to the nation’s air transportation system.”

Last spring, Waukegan Regional was one of 149 airports nationwide targeted to lose tower staff due to automatic spending cuts affecting the Federal Aviation Administration. Emergency funding was drawn to avoid an April 1 shutdown, allowing Waukegan Regional to operate with local staff rather than relying on the FAA’s Terminal Radar Approach Control in Elgin to handle its 46,000 annual flight operations.

“The bottom line,” Dickerson said, “is that, absent this highly successful federal program, many local communities and smaller airports would not receive the significant safety benefits of air traffic control services.”

The tower funding is included in a $1.012 trillion omnibus spending bill that funds government through the end of September.

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