Nantucket Memorial Airport Featured In Rand Paul’s 2020 Festivus Waste Report

Printed from:

U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) continued his annual Festivus tradition this year — and gave Massachusetts a shoutout in the process.

Each year, Paul pays tribute to the fictitious December 23 holiday from the TV show Seinfeld with his own “Airing of Grievances.” On the Seinfeld episode called “The Strike,” it occurs right after dinner and presents an opportunity for people to complain to their friends and family to their faces.

Since 2016, Paul has done that with federal government spending. On Twitter, he creates a lengthy thread where he lists off what he thinks is the most egregious waste. His office also releases a report revealing and explaining government waste. It includes things like teaching English to unemployed people in Romania ($25,000), walking lizards on treadmills ($1,557,083), testing if hot tubs can lower stress ($2,004,704), and giving cigarettes to adolescent kids ($896,994).

This year, that list of $54,746,524,505.37 ($54.746 billion) in government waste from Paul’s office included using $19,999,869 in taxpayer dollars to rebuild a taxiway for airplanes at Nantucket Memorial Airport (ACK). This occurred in July 2020 and the money came from CARES Act funding, according to the report.

The report says that while most Americans had to stay home and could not have large gatherings for much of 2020, the “privileged few” who fly into Nantucket will have a brand new taxiway to fly into, noting that 52 percent of flights to the airport from June 2019 to May 2020 were private — meaning no tickets were available to the general public.

As far as airports go, the report says that ACK is sparsely trafficked. While it had 104,581 people board aircrafts from May 2019 to September 2019, the number was 23,152 from October 2019 to April 2020, according to the report. The largest year-round carrier is Cape Air, a Cape Cod-based airline. The company’s most common plane is the Cessna 402, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. It seats nine people.

The average Cape Air Nantucket trip carries four, the report says, citing data from the Town of Nantucket. 

It notes that the median property value on Nantucket exceeds $1 million and that the summer population typically exceeds 50,000 people despite having a year-round population of about 16,000 people. It notes that some of those summer travelers have included Meryl Streep, Ben Stiller, Woody Allen, James Franco, Kourtney Kardashian, Kathie Lee Gifford, Kevin Spacey, as well as corporate CEOs, Wall Street executives, “political heavyweights and other motley moneybags.”

“So, the FAA built a taxiway at a majority private flight airport likely used predominantly by the rich and famous,” the report says. “Pretty egregious, but why’s this been given five pigs – the worst of the worst of waste – you ask? Well, believe it or not, some of the money that funded this was included in the mega spending bill Congress passed in March, the CARES Act, which was meant to respond to coronavirus.

“In fact, Congress appropriated an additional $10 billion for the Airport Infrastructure Program to, get this, ‘prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus’,” it continues. “Specifically, nearly $2 million of the nearly $20 million bankrolling the project is ‘CARES Act funding.’ It’s anybody’s guess how building a taxiway at an airport for America’s rich and famous helps prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus.”

This money was in addition to $6.2 million in CARES Act funding the airport received in April 2020 to offset revenue lost from a decline in passengers as a result of the pandemic, according to The Inquirer & Mirror. Nantucket is in Massachusetts’s Ninth Congressional District, and the move to give the airport more money for its taxiway received praise from the district’s congressman, U.S. Representative Bill Keating (D-Bourne), as well as the state’s two U.S. senators, Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, in a press release at the time.

Of the grant, Warren said, “Massachusetts’ municipal airports are critical to regional economies and our communities. This significant FAA grant will help Nantucket Memorial Airport better serve families and businesses on the Cape and Islands.” 

Markey added, “Getting to the island of Nantucket to experience its history and beauty should not be a hurdle, for residents or visitors. I am pleased to see this generous Department of Transportation grant award, which will allow Nantucket Memorial Airport to reconstruct several of its runways and ensure greater access to this special corner of the Commonwealth for all.”

And Keating said, “Nantucket Airport is one of the busiest in the Commonwealth, and not just during the summer months. The improvements allowed by this funding will ensure easy and efficient access to the Island for residents, visitors, and businesses, alike.”

Many of those flights originate in the eastern part of Massachusetts, which is the seventh smallest state in the country in area.

From October 2018 to September 2019, the three most common points of origin tand destination to and from Nantucket Memorial Airport were Logan Airport in Boston (37.38 thousand passengers), JFK Airport in New York City (28.9 thousand passengers), and Barnstable Municipal Airport (17.59 thousand passengers), according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. New Bedford Regional Airport ranked seventh on the list (4.37 thousand).

Additionally, flight is not the only way to travel to Nantucket. Two year-round ferry lines go from Hyannis to Nantucket:  Hy-Line Cruises and Steamship Authority. Hyannis, a section of Barnstable, Massachusetts, also has its own airport: Barnstable Municipal Airport. Both of the Hyannis docks are less than two miles from the airport.

A spokesman for Nantucket Memorial Airport could not be reached for comment last week.