Two decades ago, the Clinton administration proposed restructuring our air traffic control (ATC) system. The idea was to create a self-funded outfit separate from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The problem was that “The FAA has been a big, bungling bureaucracy,” noted the spokesman for the controllers’ union in 1994.
In the 1990s, the Clinton administration proposed restructuring our air traffic control (ATC) system, creating a self-funded organization outside of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The idea went nowhere in Congress at the time.
Since then, numerous countries have successfully privatized their ATC systems, including Britain and Canada. Meanwhile, our ATC is still trapped inside the FAA bureaucracy, and it continues to fall short on crucial technology upgrade projects.
Five years ago, Bob Poole and I wrote that Canada’s privatized air traffic control (ATC) system would be “a very good reform model for the United States.” U.S. policymakers—including the chairman of the House committee that oversees ATC—are now coming around to that view.
Interstate 35 between San Antonio and Austin is congested, so obviously (to some people, at least) the solution is to run passenger trains between the two cities. Existing tracks are crowded with freight trains, so the Lone Star Rail District proposes to build a brand-new linefor the freight trains and run passenger trains on the existing tracks.
Congress faces a deadline at the end of July to extend federal highway funding. Policymakers are likely to cobble together a short-term fix for the funding gap in the Highway Trust Fund (HTF), rather than enacting a permanent solution.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has another failure on its hands. In recent tests, undercover investigators smuggled mock explosives and banned weapons through U.S. airport checkpoints 96 percent of the time. According to ABC, “In one case, agents failed to detect a fake explosive taped to an agent’s back, even after performing a pat down that was prompted after the agent set off the magnetometer alarm.”
The Senate Commerce Committee held a fascinating hearing on Wednesday regarding air traffic control (ATC). The hearing showcased the momentum to proceed with ATC restructuring. Because aviation is crucial to the economy, such a reform would create wide-ranging benefits.
Congress has created an ongoing crisis in the Highway Trust Fund (HTF). Year after year, policymakers spend more on highway and transit aid to the states than the HTF raises from gas taxes and other dedicated revenues. CBO projects that annual HTF spending will be $53 billion and rising in coming years, while HTF revenues will be $40 billion. That leaves an annual funding gap of at least $13 billion.