Scranton Times Tribune
U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey updated officials at Tobyhanna Army Depot on Wednesday about efforts to bring an air traffic control center to the military installation.
“I can’t imagine a better facility in all of America than this facility,” the Republican senator said after a meeting with depot executives, other officeholders and economic development officials.
Tobyhanna has the land, infrastructure, security, electronics and radar capabilities to house the $200 million Federal Aviation Administration project, Mr. Toomey said.
The FAA plans to consolidate dozens of air-traffic facilities in the Northeast into four centers over the next 10 years.
In July, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said the center will be located in New York, and Long Island emerged as be the preferred location. FAA officials inspected a site at a Long Island office park in March.
The FAA wants the site within 150 miles of New York and the center will use satellite air traffic equipment, rather than radar-based apparatus, to coordinate air traffic in the New York, Philadelphia and New Jersey region.
In February, Mr. Toomey, Democratic Sen. Bob Casey and nine members of Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation sent a letter to the FAA urging reconsideration.
Tobyhanna is less than 100 miles from New York. Officials at the depot declined to comment.
“This is a very good location, geographically,” Mr. Toomey said. “This isn’t land that the federal government would have to buy.”
Officials admit the odds are long on landing the facility, which will require 250,000 square feet of building space and will employ more than 800 people.
“This is an uphill battle,” said Austin Burke, president of the Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce.
“The economic impact would be hundreds of millions annually. It really would be preferable to Long Island and some other places.”
Tobyhanna already contributes more than $4 billion to the regional economy annually and an FAA center would have a huge additional impact, said Jeffrey Box, president and chief executive at the Northeastern Pennsylvania Alliance, a Pittston-based economic development agency.
“Economic development is always nothing ventured, nothing gained,” Mr. Box said. “It appears to be the perfect marriage of federal facilities in one location.”
A decision on siting is anticipated in June, Mr. Toomey said.