By Betsy Dolan
The air traffic control tower at Sugar Land Regional Airport could get a much needed funding boost from the Texas Department of Transportation.
TxDOT announced they will pick up the slack for 13 small Texas airports when federal funding stops due to nationwide budget cuts.
The money will come from existing aviation funds and will pay for the continued service of air traffic controllers, estimated to be $7 million a year. $750,000 would pay for the six air traffic controllers at the Sugar Land airport.
The decision requires approval by the Texas Transportation Commission which is holding an emergency meeting on Thursday to discuss the issue.
Last week, the Federal Aviation Administration announced it would cut funding to 149 air traffic control towers on April 7. Thirteen Texas towers were on the list, including those at Sugar Land and Conroe airports.
“Safety is the primary reason we felt a need to take immediate action for the air travelers and business aircraft that use these airports,” Texas Transportation Commissioner Fred Underwood said in a news release.
Sugar Land city spokesman Doug Adolph said the proposed TxDOT funding was encouraging.
“The state has notified us that TxDOT intends to provide emergency funding to operate towers, including ours, for the next 90 days,” Adolph said. “This will fund air traffic controllers to ensure the safe operation of Sugar Land Regional Airport.”
Sugar Land’s airport has more than 250 takeoffs and landings every day and over 100 Fortune 500 companies use the airport.
Sugar Land Regional Airport is one of eight nationally-rated general aviation airports in the State of Texas and the number one reliever airport in the Houston area for both Intercontinental and Hobby Airports. Houston is the 5th most congested airspace in the nation.
The tower at SLRA is supported by the FAA’s Federal Contract Tower Program and funded by the Airport Improvement Program which is supported by user fees instead of federal tax dollars.