The U.S. Senate last week approved a Federal Aviation Administration stopgap bill that keeps the agency funded through Sept. 16, prompting a return of contractors to construction sites in Oakland and Palm Springs.

The bill is the measure that passed the House on July 20 and includes a controversial rider that trims the Essential Air Service (EAS) program, which subsidizes flights to rural airports.

Passage of the bill ends a congressional stalemate—at least for now—that had forced the FAA to issue stop-work orders on more than 200 airport projects, including a number of construction and engineering projects, and furloughing 4,000 workers. More than 70,000 construction workers were also let go.

In California, the two federally-funded major air traffic control tower projects in Oakland and Palm Springs are also getting back off the ground.

Acknowledging that the general contractors have returned to the construction sites, Ian Gregor, spokesman for the FAA’s Western-Pacific Region, Los Angeles, said that activity will begin as soon as the contractors can re-mobilize their subcontractors.
At Oakland International, Devcon Construction, Milpitas, has returned to the construction site that until the shutdown hosted 60 workers, according to airport spokesperson Rosemary Barnes. The $31-million project consists of a 236-foot tower to replace two aging, existing towers built in 1962 and 1972. Barnes said about 10 months of construction remain.

Palm Springs International Airport’s Executive Director Tom Nolan said the construction site, as of Monday, was not fully staffed with nearly 60 workers, but Swinerton Builders, San Francisco, the general contractor, was back on site. The $13.9-million project includes a 150-foot tower and 7,200-square-foot base building. Completion is scheduled for early 2013.

Asked whether he believed that the airport’s tower project could once again be shut down if a new agreement isn’t made before Sept. 16, Nolan said he has no other option but to “take one day at a time.”