Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Infrastructure Report Card: Aviation: "D"

The 2013 Infrastructure Report Card, by the American Society of Civil Engineers, gives American Aviation a "D", noting: "Despite the effects of the recent recession, commercial enplanements were about 33 million higher in number in 2011 than in 2000, stretching the system’s ability to meet the needs of the nation’s economy. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) estimates that the national cost of airport congestion and delays was almost $22 billion in 2012. If current federal funding levels are maintained, the FAA anticipates that the cost of congestion and delays to the economy will rise from $34 billion in 2020 to $63 billion by 2040."

Worse, recent budget cuts (the so-called "sequestration") is reducing the effectiveness of air traffic control. (See, e.g., Sequestration Furloughs Air Traffic Controller One Week After Winning Award)

During the Great Depression, the unemployed were hired into the WPA to (among other things) build, improve, and repair airports. They worked on over 900 airports. Edgar S. Gorrell, president of the Airport Transport Association of America in 1940, said “When the history of civil aeronautics during its formative era is finally written, there will be a chapter on the activities of WPA which will be unstinted in its praise.”

There are 27 million Americans who would like a full-time job but can't find one (see here). There are nearly 5 million Americans who are described by the Bureau of Labor Statistics as "long-term unemployed" (see here). We just received a "D" ("poor") on our aviation infrastructure. Our response? Ignore the unemployed and cut spending on airports.

(Image above is a WPA Poster, courtesy of the Library of Congress. Gorrell quote is from "Naked Airport: A Cultural History of the World’s Most Revolutionary Structure," by Alistair Gordon.)

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