| WASHINGTON, Sept 30
WASHINGTON, Sept 30 Air and rail travelers in
the United States should not feel a big impact if Congress fails
to avert a government shutdown on Tuesday, since passport
inspectors, security officers and air traffic controllers will
all continue to work as usual.
The Department of Homeland Security said that most employees
of the Transportation and Security Administration (TSA) and
Customs and Border Protection are exempt from furloughs that
will be put in place if the government shuts down.
As a result, screening of passengers at airport screening
checkpoints will continue as usual. On the other end of the
flight, agents will still be staffing passport controls at U.S.
borders and points of entry into the United States.
Visas for foreigners who want to travel to the United States
will still be processed and issued.
The Federal Aviation Administration's air traffic
controllers will also continue their normal activities so
flights should not be disrupted, the agency said. FAA inspectors
will still conduct inspections in the field and medical
certification for pilots and air traffic controllers will
Some FAA staff will be furloughed, though. As a result,
training for new air traffic controllers will be suspended, as
will aviation rule making.
Development of "NextGen", the new U.S. air traffic control
system that aims to help airlines better navigate crowded air
routes, will also be suspended during a government shutdown,
according to the Department of Transportation.
The department said NextGen development and testing will be
suspended, as will development of NextGen safety standards.
NextGen is a staged program that will shift air traffic control
systems to global positioning satellites from radar and requires
about $1 billion a year in federal investment.
In case of a major transportation accident, the National
Transportation Safety Board will decide on a case-by-case basis
whether it will launch an investigation immediately or not.
An NTSB spokeswoman said if there are "life safety" issues
involved then NTSB would send out investigators. On Monday, the
agency said it was sending investigators to the site of a
commuter train crash in Chicago.
The rail service Amtrak, which is not a federal agency but
which does receive federal funding, said it will continue normal
operations of its national intercity and high-speed passenger
rail network in the event of a short-term government shut down.
Even though travelers may not see many disruptions, the
government shutdown could have a longer-term economic impact,
said the chief of the U.S. Travel Association, a group which
represents all components of the travel industry.
"We are concerned that federal agencies will quickly be
forced to implement shutdown policies that will damage the
travel experience and derail long-term bipartisan investments in
our travel infrastructure," said Roger Dow, president of U.S.