"Stealth" effort in Congress to close Rialto, California, airport

July 27, 2005

"Stealth" effort in Congress to close Rialto, California, airport

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There's an under-the-radar attempt in Congress to close the Rialto, California, airport. But it hasn't escaped AOPA's attention.

The bill was slipped in as a "stealth amendment" to the highway funding bill, now being negotiated in a House-Senate conference committee.

The provision reportedly allows the airport to be sold to developers at less than half of its fair market value.

"This is outrageous and an abuse of public funds invested in the nation's air transportation system," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "We've turned to aviation leaders in Congress to fight this attempt at closing an important Southern California reliever airport."

AOPA is lobbying the conferees to block the bill. At least two of the conferees, Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) and Rep. Jim Oberstar (D-Minn.), have expressed strong opposition. (A conference committee, made up of designated members from the House and the Senate, works out the differences between House and Senate versions of a bill.)

But this is not AOPA's first effort to keep the airport open and operating. The airport land has become increasingly valuable to developers because of the construction of a new freeway and off ramp adjacent to the airport. So for the past 18 months, AOPA has worked actively to oppose efforts to close the airport, including providing testimony at a public hearing on the issue.

The city has neglected the airport for several years and is already in "non-compliance" with the FAA for not upholding its end of the agreement when it accepted federal grants.

Updated: July 28, 2005, 12:20 p.m. EDT