Wednesday, April 12, 2006
L.A. flexing its muscle for airport in AV
By MARISSA WIDDISON
The Antelope Valley (CA) Press
PALMDALE – If city leaders and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa get their way, hundreds of thousands of federal dollars will fly into Palmdale Regional Airport. Last week, “Wheels up Palmdale” – a coalition that includes Palmdale, the County of Los Angeles and Los Angeles World Airports – applied for $900,000 in federal grants from the Department of Transportation. Villaraigosa announced his support for the application Tuesday. “I am committed to strengthening Southern California’s regional aviation system,” Villaraigosa wrote in a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta. “And fostering the long-term viability of Palmdale Regional Airport is one of the many ways regional aviation in Southern California can be advanced.”
The money would come from a grant from the Department of Transportation’s Small Community Air Service Development Program, established in 2000 to help communities meet their air transportation needs. The program authorizes the Transportation secretary to hand out as many as 40 grants each year.
“We think that we’re going to have a very competitive request,” Mayor Jim Ledford said Tuesday afternoon. “We’ve got a broad base of support.”
According to the Los Angeles World Airports – a municipal agency that runs LAX as well as smaller airports in Palmdale, Ontario and Van Nuys – the grant application from the Palmdale coalition outlined promises of community support as well as detailed plans for the future.
For example, the application included pledges from a number of private and public partners who said they would chip in $1.15 million in cash and $3.58 million in other contributions, such as advertising, marketing support and airport terminal rent abatements.
The papers also included a description of the coalition’s plan to initiate a 50-seat regional jet service by developing a “revenue guarantee program.” The idea behind the program is that, by minimizing the financial risk associated with entering a new market, the airport will attract businesses and nonstop flights to other transportation hubs in the Western states.
“The revenue guarantee will be a short-term program tailored to ‘jumpstart’ the new regional jet service by mitigating an airline’s risk,” according to Los Angeles World Airports.
Coalition members said improved services at the regional airport would alleviate traffic in the air and on the streets around Los Angeles International Airport.
Villaraigosa agreed; he even went so far as to ask members of the public to write to Mineta in Washington and urge the Department of Transportation to approve the grant application.
This show of support comes about three months after the City Council – including Villaraigosa – opposed plans to expand LAX. In December, the city scrapped most of a decade-old, $11 billion modernization plan.
“This is good news for Palmdale because it means there really is a focus on the Antelope Valley area,” Los Angeles World Airports spokeswoman Maria Tesoro Fermin said at the time.
Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, whose 5th District includes the Antelope Valley, moved in January that Los Angeles County supervisors urge the owners of the airport to start implementing some incentives to attract businesses. He presented a wish list that included free shuttle transportation from Van Nuys Park-and-Ride, advance ticket purchase options and improved cargo transport.
“Palmdale Airport is located in the heart of one of the fastest growing areas of the country,” Antonovich said in the motion. “It has a fully equipped and operational terminal poised for full utilization.”
Since then, Scenic Airlines – which offered flights from Palmdale to North Las Vegas five days a week – left the regional airport, blaming the county and city for its failure. Palmdale Regional had ceased to provide “meaningful marketing support” and “discontinued availability of fueling services” at the Palmdale terminal, according to Scenic.
Studies suggest the airport could attract passengers if the right destinations were available. Some studies estimate Palmdale could support 2 million passengers annually, growing to 12.8 million by 2030.