Senator Fights NYC Air War

With the Transportation Department set to announce on Wednesday new flight caps on New York area airports as a way to ease congestion and curb delays, New Jersey's Sen. Frank Lautenberg is raising concerns that the effect will be hard on Newark International, which may have to pick up the slack.

Lautenberg, a member of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, believes that the administration should propose a larger regional solution, not just focus on one airport.

"Travelers are tired of being inconvenienced with flights that are delayed or flat-out canceled. The Bush administration's expected proposal won't fix the problem--it could take the region's air delay problems and push them on Newark Airport," Lautenberg said. "I will not let the Bush administration dump New York's excess flights--and the problems they create--onto New Jersey."

One idea that Lautenberg may push is a cap on all of the region's airports. He is considering legislation to that effect and may introduce it today. An administration official held out the possibility of a regional approach when the announcement is made on Wednesday.

"We're aware of the senator's concerns but would like to stress that any measures we put in place to address record airline delays in the New York area will be regional in their scope," says a DOT spokesman.

By Paul Bedard