Saturday, December 4, 2004
LA agrees to pay $499.5 million to airport’s neighbors
The Associated Press
LOS ANGELES – The city has agreed to pay nearly $500 million to ease noise, traffic and pollution problems in cities near Los Angeles International Airport in exchange for an agreement from a coalition of community groups not to try to block a proposed $11-billion airport expansion plan. The agreement, which is to be announced next week, must still receive approval from the Federal Aviation Administration.
It calls for spending $499.5 million over the next 11 to 16 years on such projects as soundproofing schools and homes and setting up job-training programs.
The money would come from the sale of bonds, increased airport landing fees, terminal rents and passenger charges, as well as from airport reserve funds.
“This agreement is really revolutionary,” said Jerilyn Lopez Mendoza, policy director for Environmental Defense, one of 22 community groups that worked out the deal with Los Angeles officials. “There are so many of us with such different perspectives and constituencies, but we’ve managed to stay together through a long and difficult process.”
Other airport agencies have reached similar agreements with neighboring cities, but none have been as wide-ranging or expensive as the proposed Los Angeles deal. In Boston, the agency that operates Logan International Airport has spent $41.6 million on community projects.
“We feel very strongly that this is what we should be doing,” said Kim Day, executive director of Los Angeles World Airports, the city agency that runs Los Angeles International. “We weren’t railroaded into coming up with an agreement to keep people from suing us. We know we cause environmental problems, and we think we should be allowed by the FAA to spend money to make these people’s lives better.”
Federal officials were noncommittal about whether they would approve the plan.
“We are going to look at this carefully and see if it just can’t work for everyone involved,” said FAA spokesman Donn Walker. “We want to do what’s right for the airport. We want to do what’s right for the community. And we want to do what’s right by federal practice and law.”