ATLANTA, Oct. 1, 2013 — The federal government may have officially shuttered its doors Tuesday, but air travelers might not have noticed.
That’s because most employees responsible for screening baggage and passengers are considered essential employees. Same with air traffic controllers, who reported to work Tuesday to oversee the nation’s skies.
But, the Federal Aviation Administration’s development of the so-called “NextGen” air traffic control system is postponed, and more than 3,000 air safety inspectors were furloughed, The Washington Times reported.
“The majority of our officers who screen passengers/luggage will remain on the job,” Fox News quoted TSA spokesman Ross Feinstein as saying in a tweet. Likewise, Amtrak trains continued to operate.
“Amtrak will continue normal operation of its national intercity and high-speed passenger rail network in the event of a short-term federal government shutdown,” the railroad said in a statement. “Passengers planning to travel on Amtrak trains in the Northeast Corridor and across the country in the coming days and weeks can be assured that Amtrak will remain open for business.”
However, travelers looking to visit a national park or a federally managed site are out of luck.
“The closure of national parks and federal historic sites to millions of travelers — coupled with the general perception of an uncertain travel process — would do serious and immediate harm to the economy,” the International Business Times quoted Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, as saying. “While we recognize that basic travel functions will continue, 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.”
In advance of the shutdown, the National Park Service took its website offline.
“Because of the federal government shutdown, all national parks are closed and National Park Service webpages are not operating,” according to a notice on the agency’s website. Similar messages were posted to the Department of Homeland Security and Transportation Safety Administration web pages.
Meanwhile, the federal shutdown appeared to cause confusion among some travelers who were unclear whether state parks and locally operated museums were open. Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites, for example, urged campers who may have been kicked off federal lands because of the shutdown to re-book plans at a state park.
“We’ve already had a number of campers check into our state parks because they had to leave Corps of Engineers campgrounds which had closed,” Georgia State Parks Assistant Director Wally Woods said in a statement. “We have plenty of cabins, yurts and campsites available this week.”
Museums, such as the National Atomic Testing Museum in Las Vegas, took the opportunity to assure guests they were unaffected by the federal government shutdown.
“The Museum will continue to be open to the public,” the museum said in an email statement. “The Museum is a 501 (C) 3 non-profit, charitable organization that receives no government direction or operational funding.”
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