Casey touts Tobyhanna Depot for FAA facility

$200 million in air traffic control facility could bring up to 1,200 jobs

By:  Andrew M. Seder

With the region’s largest employer as his backdrop, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey stood outside the Tobyhanna Army Depot Friday to advocate for the Federal Aviation Administration to consider the Monroe County military complex as the site for a new $200 million air traffic control facility.

Casey, D-Scranton, joined by elected officials and area economic development leaders, touted the benefits to Northeastern Pennsylvania and the federal government. He said it seemed prudent to spend less taxpayer money by using an existing and secure facility rather than buying or leasing property elsewhere.

“Tobyhanna has significant existing infrastructure that will make building the (facility) more cost-efficient for the FAA and the taxpayer,” Casey and U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Zionsville wrote in a letter sent to U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and released Friday.

The letter includes an invitation asking the secretary to visit the depot and see its workforce firsthand as he decides the location of the air traffic control facility.

Toomey, who was not at the Friday event but did visit Tobyhanna earlier this month, sent The Times Leader a statement saying: “It is clear that there would be no better geographic location … I can’t imagine a better facility in all of America than Tobyhanna and I look forward to hearing from Secretary LaHood.”

The letter is the latest correspondence from area congressmen to the federal government advocating for Pennsylvania locations to be considered for the center.

In a letter sent to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta earlier this year, 11 congressmen urged Huerta to consider Pennsylvania sites. They expressed the benefits of locating the facility here rather than New York, which has been favored by the FAA.

The FAA is mandating the facility be within 150 miles of New York City. The Pennsylvania legislators contend several sites in the Keystone State, including Tobyhanna would meet the criteria.

The FAA plans to start building the tower in 2016 and have it completed and operational by 2020. It would serve the region including New York, Philadelphia and New Jersey and would replace two outdated systems in place on Long Island.

Dubbed the “Liberty Integrated Control Facility,” the planned 250,000-square-foot installation will create 850 jobs and could eventually have up to 1,200 workers, according to FAA documents.

Among the elected and economic development officials on hand Friday were state Sen. John Blake, D-Archbald, and state Rep. Mike Carroll, D-Avoca.

When an FAA spokeswoman was asked if Pennsylvania was being considered, she referred The Times Leader to a statement issued by the FAA that said: “The FAA is continuing efforts to plan for development of a NextGen facility in New York to replace the New York Center and New York TRACON.”