LAX – Runway Move Under Review

LAXLos Angeles City Council to address Los Angeles International Airport runwayplan in spring – Will Los Angeles International Airport be permitted to move a runway 260 feet closer to Westchester homes and businesses?

That’s now a question for the full, 15-member Los Angeles City Council,which is expected to take it up later this spring.

The project took another step forward earlier this week when two councilcommittees moved jointly to recommend the entire council adopt a LAXproposal to change the configuration of two runways on the north side of theairfield. The Trade, Commerce and Tourism and Planning and Land Use Management committees voted 5-1 in favor of the modernization plan, whichalso includes less controversial items such as an intermodal transportationcenter, a consolidated rental car facility and an automated people mover.

“If we truly want to be a world class city, we have to have a world classairport,” Councilman Mitch Englander said.

Executives with Los Angeles World Airports, which operates the nation’sthird-busiest airport, say the runways must be moved apart to improve safetyand operational efficiency. A taxiway would then be built between therunways, a common element at most modern international airports. Allprojects would be paid for using airport revenues, not city general fundmoney.

Opponents had hoped the committees would consider recommending that the fullcouncil only approve the ground transportation elements of the airport’smodernization proposal.

They argue the runway move is unnecessary, pointing to an academic study finding a new configuration would not be statistically safer than the current one. Community members said the change would bring unneeded noise and pollution to Westchester and Playa Del Rey. The site of the new runway is within the airport’s existing footprint but is closer to the communitythan the current one.

Councilman Bill Rosendahl, whose district includes LAX, was the lone “no”vote.

Rosendahl, who will write a minority report for the full council, said opponents are often mischaracterized as angry residents. He said they actually just favor regionalism – or the philosophy of spreading air traffic to other area airports, like Ontario and Burbank.

“They are not NIMBYs,” said Rosendahl, using an acronym for Not In My BackYard. “They are for regionalism.”

Tuesday’s hearing was another required step in a process that could take years to resolve. The City Council is expected to take action on the runwayissue later this spring, but even then, the project will be far from ready for construction.

If it passes the City Council, the airport would still need to completedetailed environmental reports relating to each facet of its proposal. Thosewould then need to be approved, again, by the council.

“No one should consider that construction is about to start tomorrow or is around the corner,” said Gina Marie Lindsey, executive director of Los Angeles World Airports. “There is more detailed work to accomplished. ”

There is also the threat of litigation, possibly from the Westchester Community group Alliance for a Regional Solution to Airport Congestion. The group’s attorney, Douglas Carstens, said it is too early to discuss legal matters. But he told council members he is concerned the airport may have rushed through its obligations under the California Environmental Quality Act.