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Idaho lawmakers question moving airport system

Idaho lawmakers question moving airport system

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BOISE, Idaho (AP) -- Idaho lawmakers are asking the Federal Aviation Administration to delay a plan to move an air traffic control system from the Boise Airport to Salt Lake City, saying an audit is needed to prove the plan is feasible.

Idaho Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, and Rep. Mike Simpson, all Republicans, and Democrat Rep. Walt Minnick wrote in a letter to the FAA last week that the audit is needed to determine whether the agency's financial calculations are correct in saying moving the system will save money.

The agency says moving the Terminal Radar Approach Control system, called TRACON, will save the agency $24 million over 25 years.

The system keeps track of air traffic from five to 65 miles outside an airport. Air traffic controllers in the Boise Airport tower would still track aircraft within five miles. Other controllers track aircraft outside the 65-mile range.

The Boise system is scheduled to move to Salt Lake City in January 2011.

But the Idaho lawmakers said in the letter, obtained by the Idaho Statesman, that the agency has failed to show that moving the system would save money.

"In fact, the evidence that we've seen actually continues to indicate that service would be diminished and intrinsically, safety and efficiency would also suffer," the lawmakers wrote.

A spokesman with the FAA said it had received the letter and was preparing a response.

Boise Mayor Dave Bieter, in a statement released Thursday, said the agency's plan to move TRACON out of Boise was "ill-advised."

Bieter said moving the system could result in "an unnecessary expense for taxpayers, a decrease in efficiency, a loss of local jobs and a potential threat to air safety."

He said taxpayers should be concerned about spending money to relocate the system when there are still questions about whether it can operate as promised.

"The most cost effective solution for the taxpayer, and the best solution for the traveling public, is to keep TRACON in Boise," Bieter said.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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