MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The U.S. Air Force is directing $18 million for the construction of a new air traffic control tower at Maxwell Air Force Base, a long-awaited upgrade base commanders and local leaders have been requesting for some time.
Sen. Richard Shelby, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee and its subcommittee on Defense, announced the news Wednesday and praised the Air Force for its decision.
“This needed upgrade will increase the base’s functionality by improving the structural conditions and enhancing the safety and visibility of all operations,” Shelby said.
“Without the replacement tower, the current facility’s health and safety issues could result in ground accidents and costly damage or loss of assets. I applaud the Air Force on their decision to fund the project. As the second busiest distinguished visitor base in the nation, this funding is critical to maintaining and advancing Maxwell’s performance, particularly in light of its support for the F-35 fighter jet program.”
U.S. Rep. Martha Roby, who serves on Defense Appropriations in the House, has been working for years to get the Air Force to direct funds toward this project.
“I have personally climbed up the antiquated tower and can attest to how dangerous it is and how badly it needs to be replaced,” Roby said. “I am very pleased that this issue is being addressed through the recently-passed military funding bill, and I look forward to seeing this improvement become reality as Maxwell continues to support the needs of the Air Force in the River Region, including the 187th Fighter Wing’s missions. This would not be possible without Senator Shelby’s efforts, and I appreciate his leadership as Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and its Subcommittee on Defense.”
While $18 million for a facility upgrade may seem like a routine use of funds for the Air Force, the air base and the Montgomery community have been trying to build support for replacing the tower for ten years. The existing tower was built in the 1950s and has long outlived its effectiveness. There are line-of-sight problems with the runway and safety issues. A 2014 Montgomery Advertiser story illustrates the problems with the tower and the growing need to replace it.
From a community standpoint, having the aging tower finally replaced represents the Air Force’s long-term commitment to Maxwell. It has been on the top of the priority lists for both the City of Montgomery and the Chamber of Commerce for ten years. But today the city has what it hasn’t in that time: serious congressional clout, particularly as it concerns defense appropriations.
“This allocation is more than a construction project – this signifies that the Air Force and our congressional delegation recognizes and supports the long-term national significance of Montgomery’s military installations, international students, thought leadership, cyber defense and business systems it supplies to the Air Force,” said Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange.
Chamber of Commerce Chairman Judge Charles Price echoed the mayor’s sentiments.
“The Chamber is grateful for the close relationship we have with our representation in Washington and our military partners in Montgomery, and we’re proud to advocate on behalf of our military missions and the men and women who serve our country and call our community home. More than an infrastructure investment, this will not only help Montgomery to better secure and support our current military missions but will position us for future opportunities that sustain and grow jobs and opportunity for Montgomery.”
The construction is expected to begin June 2019 and conclude December 2020.