Senator Murray spoke at the groundbreaking today for the new Federal Aviation Administration Tower at Spokane International Airport. As the highest-ranking Democrat on the Senate Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee, Senator Murray was able to secure $13 million for the state-of-the-art air traffic control tower.

Senator Murray's remarks follow:

Thank you, John. And thank you all for being part of this groundbreaking.

Today, we are taking another step forward to grow the economy here in Spokane, and I'm proud to be your partner.

We all know that the Spokane International Airport is an engine that drives development and jobs for the entire region. Today we are breaking ground to make that engine even stronger, safer, and more productive. This new tower will help residents, businesses and our military at Fairchild. Thank You, Air Traffic Controllers

First, I want pay tribute to the air traffic controllers and other FAA employees here in Spokane. You certainly deserve this new tower and new technology. Every day you guide passengers and our military personnel in-and-out of Spokane. You help them do what they need to do safely – whether it's visiting family, taking a business trip, or conducting a military mission.

As air travel continues to rebound since September 11th, our air traffic controllers are facing more and more challenges on the job. With this new tower, we're giving you the tools you need to be effective. So I want to ask for a round of applause for everyone whose expertise and judgment help keep Spokane International a safe, dynamic airport.

And let me just add -- I know that the FAA is considering closing air traffic control operations at this tower between midnight and 5 am. Well, I have big questions about that approach. It could undermine our plans to have this airport realize its full potential as an economic engine for the region. That's why -- on Thursday -- I talked to the FAA Administrator about it. She assured me that no decisions have been made, and they are still evaluating the policy. I told her that she will have one heck of a job convincing me that Spokane needs anything less than 24-hour coverage.

I want to thank the airport leaders, the mayor, the council and commissioners, the business community, the contractor, the employees, and everyone who keeps this airport an engine for economic growth.

This groundbreaking is about improving safety and improving the economy. The new tower replaces a building designed for the 1960's with a building that will meet the needs of today and tomorrow. It's more accessible and provides better views of what's happening on the runways and throughout the airport grounds. It's also being built in a way that will allow for future growth and future improvements -- so the airport will be able to adapt to new needs down the road.

This new tower will help continue Spokane's economic development. It tells the business community that Spokane is a good investment – that Spokane is a place where and entire community comes together to build for the future.

This tower tells residents, visitors, and companies that Spokane is "open for business." It will allow you to expand freight and passenger travel. It provides a huge service to Fairchild – which is a critical part of the region's economy. It provides a great service to general aviation, and to the medical community with emergency flights in-and-out of this airport serving the entire Inland Northwest.

At the federal level, I've worked to invest in your airport. For this tower project, I've secured nearly $14 million so far. We've still got more work to do to finance the tower, and I continue to work on it.

I've also worked with you to fund other critical projects at the airport – like the Taxiway ‘C’ Extension Project. I’ve worked with the airport to ensure the Transportation Security Administration creates an effective security system at Spokane to move both people and baggage more rapidly.

Beyond the airport, we've worked together on other local investments to make sure you have a growing economy – from the University District to the North-South freeway. It hasn't always been easy to secure these funds. That's because the Administration hasn't asked Congress for them. But I want the White House to recognize what we all recognize – that to keep Spokane business-friendly, we need the infrastructure to grow. And together we're providing it. So congratulations on this groundbreaking – it's a great start for Spokane's future.