LAX Modernization Plan

City Council adopts LAX modernization plan despite legal threats
The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES – An $11 billion plan to modernize Los Angeles International Airport was adopted Tuesday by the city despite threats of a legal challenge by county leaders. The City Council voted 12-3 to move forward with a proposal to overhaul the world’s fifth-busiest airport, a project that has already cost at least $125 million to develop and would be carried out in two phases.

The first stage would run nearly $3 billion to move a runway, add gates to the international terminal, and build a consolidated rental car center, transit hub and employee parking lot.

Demolition of three terminals and construction of a central passenger check-in facility would come in the next phase only after further study because of a compromise between Mayor James Hahn and City Councilwoman Cindy Miscikowski and others. That stage would cost nearly $8 billion.

Altogether, the remodeling would be the largest in the airport’s 75-year history.

Hours before the city’s green light, the county Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a measure to sue over concerns about the plan’s security measures and future growth in cargo and passengers.

Hahn was dismayed by the county’s action.

“I think that we’ve tried to reach out to the county … so I’m disappointed that they would choose litigation,” he said.

In October, the City Council voted to override objections to the plan by the county Airport Land Use Commission, said Elizabeth Kaltman, the mayor’s press deputy. The commission had ruled that the proposal violated the airport land use plan.

On Tuesday, the City Council gave final approval to that override and certified an environmental study of the project’s effects on surrounding areas, Kaltman said.

Opposing the plan were councilmen Antonio Villaraigosa and Bernard Parks, who are both running for mayor, and Jack Weiss, who said it would make passengers vulnerable to terrorism by concentrating them in one facility.

Supporters hope to begin construction next year, though the Federal Aviation Administration must sign off on the blueprint before that happens.

FAA spokesman Donn Walker said his agency will likely announce its decision early next year.

The move came a day after the city Board of Airport Commissioners passed a $500 million agreement with community groups to ease noise and pollution in cities affected by the expansion project.