August 11, 2011
By Nicole C. Brambila
With the rat-a-tat tat of construction workers behind her, U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., toured the work on the air traffic tower Wednesday at Palm Springs International Airport.
“I hear noise. That’s a good sign,” Boxer told Tom Hayes, Palm Springs air traffic manager.
Projects across the country – including the Palm Springs tower – were stalled after a partial Federal Aviation Administration funding shutdown that ended with a temporary agreement Aug. 5.
The shutdown happened because Democrats and Republicans were arguing about subsidies to rural airports and union organizing.
The agreement ends Sept. 16.
The Palm Springs tower has “become a symbol of a government that has broken,” Boxer said.
Boxer, who lives in Rancho Mirage, called on House Speaker John Boehner to make his appointments to a conference committee to iron out the differences between the House and Senate FAA funding bills.
Boxer noted that she was appointed to the Senate committee more than 100 days ago.
In a press conference that lasted about 30 minutes, Boxer called on Republicans to end their “partisan snipping and hostage-taking” and to meet Democrats halfway.
Without an agreement or another extension, projects could stall again, Boxer warned.
“This story is not over,” said Boxer, the unfinished tower dressed with scaffolding behind her. “This is a continuing saga that must not be repeated.”
Brittany Bramell, a Boehner spokeswoman, did not return phone calls seeking comment.
Boxer’s visit to the tower came less than a week after Palm Springs Republican Rep. Mary Bono Mack took a tour.
The FAA shutdown affected about 60 workers at the Palm Springs tower and cost the contractor, Swinerton Builders, more than $10,000 in rental and equipment fees, said Rich Garcia, project manager.
Garcia did not have an estimate on the drywall damaged in the recent rains, but called it insignificant.
The shutdown on the $24.5 million project has pushed back the expected 2013 completion by about a month.
“Aviation is part of the economic backbone of the whole United States,” said Tom Nolan, Palm Springs International Airport executive director. “We don’t want Congress to play poker with aviation.”
About two dozen men were back at the job site Wednesday, fire-proofing steel and working on the electric and plumbing.
Local officials began pursuing a new tower six years ago. The new 150-foot tower – twice the height of the original one – will give controllers better sight-lines of the airport’s 2-mile-long runways.
Nicole C. Brambila is a staff writer with The Desert Sun. She can be reached at (760) 778-6445 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @nbrambila.
Source: DESERT SUN