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Airport tower closings averted

WASHINGTON — Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood assured lawmakers the Obama administration will prevent the closing of 149 small airport towers and end furloughs of air traffic controllers as a result of legislation passed by Congress, said officials involved in negotiations on the bill.

In all, 149 towers, including 12 in New England, are ticketed for closure beginning June 15 as the FAA carries out its share of $85 billion in across-the-board federal budget cuts.

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A letter to LaHood from some senators said the towers, staffed by employees under contract to the FAA, are a ‘‘vital public safety and economic development asset for dozens of communities.

President Obama is expected to sign the bill quickly.

Senator John Thune, Republican of South Dakota, said he met with LaHood and ‘‘I think his expectation is there is enough money and enough flexibility” to keep the towers open and end the furloughs.

A spokesman for LaHood said that the Transportation Department was reviewing the bill.

Five Massachusetts towers are under review — Beverly, New Bedford, Lawrence, Worcester, and Norwood — as well as six in Connecticut and one in New Hampshire.

The impetus for the legislation was private pressure from the airlines whose business was disrupted by air traffic furloughs, coupled with public outrage from travelers who were forced to endure delays.

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