The huge divide between proponents and opponents to “through-the-fence” agreements at federally-funded airports boiled to the top at a hearing held by the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee of the House Wednesday, Sept. 22.
Access to the airport, property values, limits or access to the airport for businesses and residents, value of property with access, local options, and benefits and detriments these agreement make were just a few of the differing opinions expressed by both witnesses and members of the committee during the nearly three hour hearing. The significance of the hearing was shown by the full committee with Chairman James Oberstar (D-Minn.) holding the hearing rather than the aviation subcommittee.
In his opening remarks, Oberstar commented he had been working in Congress on aviation issues for 25 years and this one is “an intriguing subject” and the committee will be looking for a balance between local governments and airplane owners.
Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) brought the subject to the chairman’s attention and his strong support for TTF agreements became evident in his opening remarks and continued throughout his questioning periods. His position expressed in comments and questions is that local governments should have the final say and that already exists under present grant agreements. It comes down to a city or county’s choice, he said. The committee is considering a bill introduced by Graves that would permit airports to continue granting TTF agreements.
The rules governing TTF apply only to airports obtaining federal grants. Of the more than 21,000 airports and landing strips in the United States, federal grants apply to only 3,332 public use facilities. Only 75 airports now have TTF agreements.
Witnesses were representatives of the FAA, Georgia Department of Aviation, Oregon aviation programs manager, a New York airport manager, and the founder of the Through the Fence Organization. The president of the National Aviation Trades Association was the only representative of general aviation.
The hearing came after the FAA published in the Federal Register Sept. 9 proposed revisions to the grant agreement relating to TTF airports. It would allow those in existence to continue but preclude new residential TTFs. The FAA will accept comments until Oct. 25.