BILL WOULD CUT TRANSPORT FUNDS IF AIRPORT REVENUE IS DIVERTED

BILL WOULD CUT TRANSPORT FUNDS IF AIRPORT REVENUE IS DIVERTED

Congress approved a $13.9 billion funding bill for transportation programs that cuts off federal transportation dollars to states or municipalities that divert airport revenues for non-airport purposes.

The diversion provision in the House-Senate compromise measure approved last Thursday was written in general terms but directly addresses proposals by city officials to shift excess Los Angeles International Airport revenue to other, off-airport city programs such as police protection.Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan's election campaign stressed the need for additional police officers, a move he suggested could be paid for in part through the privatization or long-term leasing of LAX.

He also expressed interest in diverting airport revenue if Congress were to relax federal prohibitions on diversions in the 1982 Airport and Airway Improvement Act.

It appears Congress has given its answer on the latter question.

"This sends a clear message to California that Congress feels strongly about preserving the integrity of the transportation system," said Tim Neale, a spokesman for the Air Transport Association.

He said it's likely the diversion dispute will continue, however, unless the mayor can find another way to pay for the beefed-up police force.

Air carriers and LAX are in a bitter dispute over the airport's recent threefold increase in landing fees, a move viewed by the carriers as based on a plan to shift surplus money to non-airport functions.

The carriers have gone to federal district court in Los Angeles to stop the imposition of the new fees, and a judge will hear their case today.

As Congress neared completion of the transportation appropriations conference report, several other appropriations measures remained unfinished, meaning that Congress had to pass another "continuing resolution" to keep the government operating at current levels. A first continuing resolution expired Thursday.

The transportation measure is the product of a House-Senate conference committee. It authorizes the release of $22.6 billion in fiscal 1994 from the aviation and highway trust funds for various programs.

The conference agreement provides $113 million for 11 highway and bridge projects.

It also includes $33 million for essential air service to small communities and $20 million for research on magnetic-levitation rail systems. The House had provided no funds for either program.