Blakey Turns Up Funding Rhetoric

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FAA Administrator Marion Blakey is painting a bleak picture of the future of air travel if her controversial formula to fund the agency isn't adopted. In a speech delivered during the Joint Planning and Development Office (JPDO) Day on the Hill late last week, Blakey told members of Congress that air traffic gridlock is on the horizon and the high-tech solution to the problem needs the funding that her user-pay-based proposal would provide. "If we're unable to have a financing reform bill in place by September 30, when the current set of taxes expire, the delays and the missed connections and the headlines are only going to get worse -- much worse," she said. "Without a reliable funding stream, the NextGen program will start to slow down, and when the bow wave of delays hits, it'll be too late." Others, including the Government Accountability Office, have questioned that view. (Click here to listen to the Reason Foundation's Robert Poole on why aviation user fees would be good for airspace users.) Blakey said she believes the recent headlines that say airline delays will increase this summer. She said the Next Generation Air Transportation System is crucial to accommodating growth in air traffic and the funding formula is crucial to the future of NextGen. "You can call it critical mass. You can call it gridlock. But whatever you call it, we all know that the problem is upon us," she said. "If you walk away from today with only one thought, let it be this: there are 109 days until September 30. Letís get it done."