Cantwell Secures Win for Walla Walla Airport

Cantwell: Airport is a critical economic driver for Walla Walla

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the U.S. Senate passed a provision led by U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell that will directly benefit Walla Walla Airport by reforming the FAA’s Contract Tower Cost Share Program. The provision passed as part of the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act of 2016 by a vote of 95-3.

“Our regional airports are a critical economic driver for local economies. Ensuring Walla Walla Airport can thrive helps grow small businesses and create jobs across the valley from hotels to wineries,” said Senator Cantwell, ranking member of the Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety, and Security.

Cantwell’s provision reforms the FAA’s Contract Tower Cost Share Program. Under the current program, airports who contract out their air-traffic control must pay a portion of their operating costs to run their towers. Cantwell’s provision changes the current cost structure to provide an exemption from the cost sharing program for small airports, like Walla Wall Airport, that have at least 25,000 annual passenger boardings.

The bill now awaits passage in the House of Representatives. If signed into law, the provision could save the Walla Walla Airport more than $85,000 per year.

In February, Cantwell met with the Port of Walla Walla to discuss solutions to fix the cost share requirement.

“Local commercial air service is critical for the economic success of our regional community. Senator Cantwell's continued advocacy helps foster sustained growth and success of the Walla Walla Regional Airport,” said Port of Walla Walla Commission President Michael Fredrickson.

Cantwell has been an advocate for small airports in Washington state and across the country. In 2013, after intense pressure from Cantwell, President Obama signed the Reducing Flight Delays Act, which allowed for the transfer of up to $253 million in funding to the FAA in order to end the furloughs for 47,000 FAA employees and end the planned closure of 149 contract towers.