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Counting New Stimulus Jobs at Atlanta Airport A Challenge

7:48 PM, Aug 13, 2010   |    comments
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Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport

ATLANTA -- The Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration says stimulus money for Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport will put "a lot of people" back to work, but it's tough to nail down just how many jobs will be created.

"That's always the subject of discussion," said FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt. "With $5 million, I know we've put a lot of people back to work. I don't have an exact number right in my head."

The FAA is using $9.2 million in federal stimulus money for projects that officials insist will make Hartsfield-Jackson safer and more efficient.

Stimulus funds will add to the new, sophisticated lighting system on Hartsfield-Jackson runways that will help pilots land in bad weather. The new lighting is already in place on four runways. $5 million in stimulus dollars will pay to install thousands of lights on a fifth runway.

$1.5 million will pay for a second backup generator to help assure that Hartsfield-Jackson's control tower doesn't lose power.

$2.6 million will pay for a new power system for the National Network Control Center, which processes pilot flight plans.

Although it wasn't a power issue, an incident two years ago shows what happens when that flight plan center has problems. A computer glitch there caused widespread flight delays at airports across the country.

Among the people hired to install the new lighting system is Van Smith. Before he was hired to work at the airport, he was unemployed for two years.

"If this hadn't come along, I would still be seeking work," said Smith. "I don't know anything other than work."

The FAA insists the $9.2 million in stimulus spending will lead to a lot of Van Smiths.

"You've got contractors, electricians, sheet metal workers, a number of people," said FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt. "I can get you that number if you like. It would be a forecast."

11Alive's Jerry Carnes has asked the FAA for that number and is waiting to hear back from them.

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