Perhaps no single individual can exemplify the profligate spending and massive ego that is Congress better than John Murtha. And what better monument to his ego than the airport that has been named for this poltroon.
“The John Murtha airport sits on a windy mountain two hours east of Pittsburgh, a 650-acre expanse of smooth tarmac, spacious buildings, a helicopter hangar and a National Guard training center.
Inside the terminal on a recent weekday, four passengers lined up to board a flight, outnumbered by seven security staff members and supervisors, all suited up in gloves and uniforms to screen six pieces of luggage. For three hours that day, no commercial or private planes took off or landed. Three commercial flights leave the airport on weekdays, all bound for Dulles International Airport.
The key to the airport’s gleaming facilities — and, indeed, its continued existence — is $200 million in federal funds in the past decade and the powerful patron who steered most of that money here. Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.) is credited with securing at least $150 million for the airport. It was among the first in the country to win funding from this year’s stimulus package: $800,000 to repave a backup runway.”
Three commercial flights a day between Dulles and nowhere… a 34 passenger plane that flies for *four* people. Now, business does occasionally pick up during election season, when Mr. Murtha flies home to campaign.
What hath John Murtha wrought?
“Murtha, dubbed the King of Pork by critics, consistently directs more federal money to his district than any other congressman — $192 million in the 2008 budget. His pattern of steering millions in earmarks to defense contractors who give to his campaign and hire his allies as lobbyists is being scrutinized by the FBI as part of an investigation of a lobbying firm led by one of Murtha’s closest friends.
The lawmaker, who uses the airport frequently during his campaigns, has steadily steered millions of taxpayer dollars to it to build a new terminal with a restaurant; a long, concrete runway sturdy enough to handle large jets; and a high-tech radar system usually reserved for international airports.”
So, we have an over-appointed, under-utilized airport that, for most practical purposes, amounts to a private convenience for Murtha so he can parachute in during election season and get re-elected. A runway that will never see a large jet, a radar that is overkill for a regional facility and a terminal with a restaurant that will like as not be subsidized, since the numbers of travelrs just aren’t there to support it. So, what have we got for our tax dollar?
“An $8 million radar system for detecting weather problems more than 100 miles away spins on the southern edge of the property. Murtha had said that the system would create at least a dozen air traffic control jobs, but the state Air National Guard, which was supposed to staff it, said personnel reductions have left the radar unmanned.
A $17.8 million earmark in 2006 from the Defense Department replaced the airport’s 7,000-foot-long asphalt runway with a reinforced concrete bed capable of handling larger civilian and military jets, but it is not being employed for that purpose.
A $6.5 million, three-story National Guard and Reserve training center, resembling a rustic ski lodge, is perched on Airport Road.
A new air traffic control tower was built in 1999 for $6.8 million, after Murtha persuaded Congress to add the project to the federal budget. He also got the funds that year to build the new terminal, where his portrait graces the entrance.
In 1998, at Murtha’s urging, the Marine Corps agreed to move a helicopter unit to Johnstown and constructed a $14 million hangar and training facility at the airport’s southeastern edge.”
Expensive radars with no one watching the screens and a monument to one monstrous ego. This is our tax dollar at work — $200,000,000 over ten years. But, hey — at least the parking is free. It better be — we’ve paid enough for it.