President-elect Donald Trump’s team has not made a decision regarding separating US air traffic control (ATC) from FAA, US transportation secretary nominee Elaine Chao said in a Jan. 11 Senate confirmation hearing.

Chao, who is widely expected to be comfortably confirmed by the Senate, called ATC reorganization “an issue of great importance.” A proposal by US House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pennsylvania) to create an independent, non-profit entity to manage and operate ATC, modeled after NAV Canada, failed in Congress last year.

With FAA reauthorization set to be taken up by Congress again this year, the ATC issue is expected to be revived and there has been speculation that Trump will support what some describe as the privatization of ATC. But Chao said a change of such significance should only be undertaken if there is “national consensus … We need to have a national discussion about this.”

Chao said she is “open to all ideas” regarding ATC reform and noted the Trump White House will weigh in on the issue. “This will be one of the issues on which the White House has say,” she said.

Speaking more generally, Chao indicated she wants to “unleash the potential for private investment in our nation’s infrastructure,” which she said is “in need of repair.”

Chao said “innovative financing tools, such as public-private partnerships,” will be pursued to finance US infrastructure projects by the Trump administration. “In order to take full advantage of the estimated trillions in capital that equity firms, pension funds and endowments can invest, these partnerships must be incentivized with a bold new vision,” Chao explained, adding that she wants to work with Congress “to create a mix of practical solutions—both public and private—that provide the greatest cost-benefit to the public.”

She added, “We need more resources to build, repair and grow our infrastructure, including those related to aviation.”

Aaron Karp aaron.karp@penton.com