The Federal Aviation Administration said today that it would delay the closures of 149 air traffic control towers until June 15 to resolve legal challenges filed by more than a dozen airports.
The closures, which were to begin Sunday, were announced as a way to cut $33 million in spending by Sept. 30 to meet budget-reduction mandates required of nearly every federal agency this year.
The tower at Cuyahoga County Airport, which has 67,662 landings annually, was among the 149 slated to close.
Last week, Cuyahoga County was one of the first communities in the nation to file an Emergency Request for Stay of the FAA decision and to file a Petition for Review with the U.S. Court of Appeals.
"We were one of the first and few communities in the nation to take legal action against the FAA's decision" said Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald.
"The legal challenges brought by Cuyahoga County and other jurisdictions recognized the serious consequences of air traffic tower closures. We appreciate that the FAA has now validated our concerns. We will continue to pursue all legal options and look forward making to our case."
The FAA said in a release today that the delay will let the agency "resolve multiple legal challenges to the closure decisions."
U.S. Representative Marcy Kaptur (OH-9) welcomed the announcement by the Federal Aviation Administration that it was delaying the closure of "contract" air traffic control towers, including Cuyahoga County Airport.
"It is a prudent decision, considering the implications of the closures," said Congresswoman Kaptur. "It gives proponents additional time to make our case for the 'contract' towers."
Congresswoman Kaptur said the threat of legal action by local officials around the country, including Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald, played a role in the FAA's decision to delay the closures until June 15.
"I understand the difficult decisions required by the sequester, which I continue to oppose as bad policy," said Congresswoman Kaptur. "But facilities such as Cuyahoga County Airport are crucial pieces of the physical infrastructure-and that's one of our calling cards as a region."
Peter Kirsch, a Denver lawyer representing nine airports that were to lose their towers, told USA TODAY this morning that airports are seeking an emergency court order to block the closures from happening.
Lawsuits by numerous airports have been consolidated and are being handled by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, based in California.
Kirsch said the expected that the court would rule on April 12 at the earliest.
"This has been a complex process and we need to get this right," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "Safety is our top priority. We will use this additional time to make sure communities and pilots understand the changes at their local airports."