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WASHINGTON -- Travelers should expect flight delays of up to 90 minutes at major U.S. airports if the automatic budget cuts known as the sequester are allowed to take effect, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood warned on Friday.
LaHood said the government would beginning in April have to furlough Federal Aviation Administration workers one or two days a week as long as the sequester lasts, slowing down work at airports.
"It's not possible to continue the same schedules with less people," LaHood told reporters at the White House.
The transportation chief also said that air traffic control towers at more than 100 regional airports from Alabama to Wyoming could be closed if the cuts -- totaling $85 billion across domestic and military programs in fiscal 2013 -- go into effect on March 1.
Congress has until March 1 to replace or postpone the sequester, which originally was to kick in at the beginning of the year. The cuts for fiscal 2013 were delayed by last year's fiscal-cliff agreement. Overall, the sequester calls for $1.2 trillion in cuts from fiscal 2013 to fiscal 2021.
LaHood said his agency would need to cut about $1 billion in 2013, $600 million of which would come from the FAA.
Lawmakers are due back in Washington next week and are expected to work on bills to replace the sequester. President Obama plans to travel to Newport News, Va., on Tuesday to discuss the impact that the cuts would have, White House press secretary Jay Carney said Friday.