PALM SPRINGS, Calif. -

The Department of Transportation's Federal Aviation Administration and local officials dedicated a new, environmentally friendly airport traffic control tower at Palm Springs International Airport.  The tower replaces a facility that served the airport since 1967.  "I think it's fabulous, I just think it took too long to get here," said Zeke Wheeler, a Bermuda Dunes resident.  "But we appreciate all that our congressman did and all the ones that helped on it."

Many of the people who helped start the process three years ago were there to dedicate and cut the ribbon for the tower.  Inside, air traffic controllers reap the benefits of the $24.5 million upgrade to increase safety and efficiency.  A $13.9 million American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant paid for the construction, which began in June 2010.   The new tower is 150 feet tall -- two-and-a-half times the height of the old tower.  "The technology's much better, because of the elevation," said David Suomi, the acting regional administrator for the FAA Western-Pacific Region.  "They've got better views of the airfield and the airspace."  

The view's not only better for the controllers, but for visitors to the valley. City leaders hope the new addition can help break last year's record air traffic at PSP.  "They come into the terminal and they're making their impressions of the destination right away," said Steve Pougnet, the mayor of Palm Springs.  "So we have a gleaming new tower to add to all the wonderful improvements that we've done."

The tower project includes a host of money-saving green features, including coated glass panels that reduce radiant heat inside the controller work area, decorative rock landscaping that requires no watering, and motion sensor-controlled lighting.  Additionally, the contractor will soon start building a covered paring structure with solar panels on the roof that the FAA expects will produce a significant amount of the facility's annual electrical needs when it's completed in late 2014.  "It's not just about functionally designing a facility, but doing it in a sustainable way here," said Suomi.

The parking structure's expected to be completed in late 2014.