A report prepared for Los Angeles County’s top administrator claims the operators of LAX have virtually ignored legal requirements to reduce effects on the environment by dispersing growth in commercial flights to other airports in the region.
A 2006 court settlement in a series of lawsuits over expansion plans at Los Angeles International Airport ordered Los Angeles World Airports to begin regionalizing airline traffic.
But William T Fujioka, the chief executive for Los Angeles County, and a consultant’s report prepared for his office asserts that the city airport
department has made only “token efforts” to comply with provisions of the settlement that seek a wider distribution of flights.
Fujioka’s views and the study’s conclusions were submitted as part of the public comments being gathered for the environmental review of the latest plans to improve the nation’s third largest airport.
The project is drawing intense scrutiny from opponents in nearby communities who have contested the LAX modernization plans of past mayoral administrations.
Among the current proposals is a controversial plan to separate the two northern runways by 260 feet, which has been recommended by airport staff as the preferred alternative for additional study. The city’s Board of Airport Commissioners is scheduled to vote on the recommendation Tuesday.
Proponents say the separation project would increase the airport’s capacity to handle a new, larger generation of airliners. But it also would push flight operations closer to neighborhoods in Westchester and Playa del Rey, where residents fear that further expansion of LAX will increase noise, air pollution and traffic.
Fujioka contends that pursuing the distribution of air traffic required by the 2006 settlement would mitigate many of the project’s environmental effects that airport officials have labeled “unavoidable.”
The county-funded report, prepared in October, also asserts that the city’s airport agency has missed opportunities to rebuild service at its
L.A./Ontario International Airport, where passenger volume has plummeted from 7.2 million in 2007 to about 4.3 million last year.
The settlement required Los Angeles World Airports to seek an expansion of cargo and passenger operations at Ontario International and L.A./Palmdale Regional Airport.
Inland Empire officials are seeking to take control of Ontario, saying that Los Angeles has done too little to halt the decline. Palmdale, which
struggled to retain airlines, closed in 2009.
Among other things, the county study noted that a series of interagency initiatives to pursue regionalization were short-lived and there was never any effort to revive them.
Los Angeles airport officials, the report states, blame Ontario’s decline on the economy and has “steadfastly refused” to relinquish control of the airport to a recently created authority made up of Inland Empire officials.
Those officials cite statistics showing that since the settlement, LAX’s share of air traffic has increased much faster than five other airports in
the region. Palm Springs and Long Beach had slight increases. The market shares of Ontario, Burbank and John Wayne declined, according to figures prepared by a consulting firm hired by Inland Empire officials.
Los Angeles airport officials defend their record, saying they made efforts to re-establish air service at Palmdale in 2007 and helped to reconstitute the Southern California Regional Airport Authority in 2005. The panel, however, has not met for nearly four years.
They also say they hired a consultant to work on regionalization, performed market research and tried to persuade carriers to add service at Ontario. But airport officials say they cannot force passengers and carriers to use one airport over another.
Fujioka said last week that county officials have been meeting with Los Angeles World Airports to resolve the issues. “We’ve had some positive
conversations,” he said. “We’re trying to find an appropriate solution. I want a good outcome and something that benefits both the county and the airport.”