Tobyhanna the right place to get the job done
Politicians often go over the top in touting the attributes of their districts. But Sen. Pat Toomey wasn't exaggerating last week at the Tobyhanna Army Depot when he said he couldn't "imagine a better place in all of America" for a major new federal air traffic control center.
Air traffic control is undergoing a technological revolution, a conversion from radar-based to satellite-guided navigation that will reduce congestion, shorten flight times and save billions of dollars in fuel and environmental costs. In the process, the Federal Aviation Administration plans to consolidate dozens of control operations in the Northeast into four major centers over the next decade.
As the military's principal communications and electronics repair facility, the TAD is uniquely suited the task. No other potential site has its inherent capability.
The base also meets the FAA's other criteria. It is within 150 miles of New York and of four major airports.
And it has decided cost advantages over other potential sites, including Long Island, which the FAA has indicated that it favors.
The TAD has readily available land that would be far less expensive that the office park site being considered by the FAA. As a military base, the TAD has built-in infrastructure and security capabilities that would have to be built from scratch elsewhere.
Construction at the base also likely would be less costly than on Long Island.
The economic impact on the region would be enormous, since the center would employ more than 800 highly skilled, well-paid professionals. Those employees would find an accessible housing market and a substantially lower cost of living than on Long Island, along with a much easier commute.
As demonstrated by the recent federal legislation precluding the furlough of controllers in response to sequestration, comparative development costs , along with the Tobyhanna site's added value, should be highly relevant.
Sen. Bob Casey and members of the Pennsylvania House delegation should press the administration to select the base for the new ATC site.