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November 28, 2013

Keep control towers open, delegation urges

BEVERLY — The state’s congressional delegation is once again urging the government not to close air traffic control towers at six airports in the state, including Beverly Municipal Airport.

In a Nov. 22 letter to the head of the Federal Aviation Administration, Sens. Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren, as well as the state’s eight congressional members, said they are concerned that the FAA is again considering closing the towers due to budget cuts.

“While we understand that the FAA is facing fiscal constraints resulting from the Budget Control Act, we continue to feel strongly that safety, security and economic well-being should not be jeopardized,” the letter said.

The fate of the control towers has been uncertain since March, when the FAA announced that it would stop funding for 149 towers around the country that are operated through contracts with the FAA. The agency said the closures were necessary because it was facing a $637 million budget cut due to automatic spending cuts known as sequestration.

The towers included those at airports in Beverly, Lawrence, New Bedford, Norwood, Westfield-Barnes and Worcester.

Facing political pressure and multiple legal challenges, the agency announced a month later that it would delay the closings. On May 1, President Barack Obama signed a bill called the Reduced Flight Delays Act of 2013 that provided temporary funding to keep the towers open.

The Massachusetts congressional delegation, including Congressman John Tierney of Salem, said last week that it is concerned the tower closures could come up again “without a long-term budget solution in place.”

Beverly Airport, which is owned by the city, has had a control tower since 1977. A private company staffs the tower through a contract with the FAA. It is open seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. from May to November and from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. from November to May.

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