Sen. Hutchison Presses Transportation Nominee LaHood On Improving Air Safety, FAA Landing Slots and Amtrak Enhancements

January 21, 2009

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), Ranking Member of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, today pressed President Barack Obama’s Transportation Secretary nominee, Ray LaHood, for assurances on the Federal Aviation Administration’s steps to auction airline landing slots in the New York area and proposals to improve Amtrak operations.  Secretary designee LaHood voiced his agreement with Senator Hutchison on both the slots issue and Amtrak enhancements.

“The next generation air traffic control system is essential to ensure our air space is used in the safest and most efficient way possible,” said Senator Hutchison.  “But, this system has not yet been fully implemented, and we still have many delays, especially in the New York air space, which then affect the whole country. I hope it will be one of your major priorities to support passage of the FAA reauthorization bill and get it signed by the President. We must ensure that the safety of our nation’s air traffic is a priority, but we will certainly need the help of this administration.”

The following exchange occurred during the question and answer portion of the hearing:

Sen. Hutchison: “Last year, the Department of Transportation moved forward with a rulemaking that included the auction process for airline landing slots at airports in the New York region.  Many of us in Congress and on this Committee had deep concerns about the method and legality of the proceeding.  As Secretary, can you commit to working with this Committee on a new direction for improving our congested airports and airspace and will the Department withdraw the current rulemaking proceeding regarding auctions?”

Rep. LaHood: “Senator, I think that if the idea of relieving congestion at a place like LaGuardia and one way to do it is to eliminate slots, I think it kind of defeats the purpose then to go back and say you’re going to go back and auction those off.  You know, personally again, I don’t like that idea.  I think it defeats what you’re trying to do.  If you’re really trying to cut down congestion, then eliminate the slots but the idea of them going back and re-auctioning them, to me, it doesn’t make any sense to do that.” 


Sen. Hutchison: “It has long been my position that a national passenger rail system is an essential part of our national transportation system.  Last fall, Congress showed its support for Amtrak by passing an Amtrak reauthorization bill for the first time in eight years. Rep. LaHood, do you support the full national Amtrak system?”

Rep. LaHood: “Well, the bill that was passed in the Congress last year is a very good bill and I fully intend on working with Congress to implement that.  During my fourteen years in Congress, in the House, I’ve been a strong supporter of Amtrak.  It’s the lifeblood for many, many communities around the country and I will work with all of you to implement the Amtrak Bill.  I think it’s a good bill.” 






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