Runaway Runway

Vanity stimulus

The John Murtha Johnstown–Cambria County Airport is a state-of-the-art facility. Its features include an $18 million runway made of reinforced concrete, a $7 million air traffic control tower, a $14 million hangar, an $8 million radar system, and a massive portrait of the airport’s benefactor and namesake, Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.). Last year the airport hosted an average of 20 travelers a day. All three of its daily flights go to the same place: Washington, D.C.

During his tenure in Congress, Murtha has spent $150 million in taxpayer money on this monument to himself, located in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, about an hour outside Pittsburgh, including $30 million in defense spending to enable the airport to handle massive military aircraft. The National Guard is the only branch of the military that uses the airport, and it flies only helicopters. This year’s stimulus bill includes an additional $800,000 to widen that already impressive runway. 

“Nobody wants to say no to Congressman Murtha or make him mad because he controls defense appropriations,” Melanie Sloan, executive director of the government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics, told The Washington Post. “Murtha wanted an airport, and he knew he could get one. It’s like he’s a billionaire, except it’s not his money.” 

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