Durbin Announces Illinois Control Towers Previously Slated for Closure Will Remain Open

DOT confirms Congressional action will protect contract tower operations in Alton, Carbondale, Decatur, Bloomington & Waukegan

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] - U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today announced that the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has confirmed to him that control towers at five Illinois airports - St. Louis Regional Airport, Central Illinois Regional Airport, Decatur Airport, Southern Illinois Airport and Waukegan Regional Airport - will remain open.  The control towers were previously scheduled to close on June 15, 2013 due to the impact of mandatory spending cuts, known as sequestration.  Last month, Congress passed legislation to redistribute funding and avoid the most high-profile impact of sequestration - air-traffic controller furloughs.


The news comes on the heels of an announcement by the Federal Aviation Administration earlier this week that three Illinois airports – Midway International Airport, Peoria International Airport and Waukegan Regional Airport – will not have their midnight shifts eliminated as previously announced.


“We fight for air service in downstate Illinois and closing the contract towers would have, at a minimum, slowed down flights to five airports,” said Durbin.  “I worked with Secretary LaHood and the White House to avoid this unfortunate impact of sequestration and appreciate this positive response.”


Many airports affected by the original announcement of control tower closures would have had to bear the extremely high cost of providing control tower services themselves.  For example, Central Illinois Regional Airport in Bloomington, Illinois estimated it would have had to increase the annual operating budget by 22%.  If the airports could not pick up the cost on their own, many airports with commercial service would have faced dramatically reduced revenues as airlines reduced the number and size of the flights coming to the airport.  Most likely the cost of these changes would have impacted consumers in the form of higher fares. 


Additionally, Southern Illinois University would also be uniquely impacted negatively since many students rely on the air traffic control tower at the airport to fulfill their training and academic requirements.