Legality of LAX Expansion Questioned

Plans to relocate an LAX runway might violate a 2006 legal settlement.

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday involved itself with the redesign of Los Angeles International Airport, with one supervisor wondering if the plan to relocate a runway complies with a 2006 legal settlement.

The settlement agreement -- between the county, several municipalities and Los Angeles World Airports, the city agency that operates LAX -- sets limits on growth at the airport. Intended to control traffic and noise in adjacent communities, the agreement also mandates the expansion of other area airports to meet regional demand for air travel.

LAWA, a department of the city of Los Angeles, also owns and operates Ontario International and Van Nuys airports.

On Feb. 5, LAWA's Airport Commission approved a plan that would push the northern-most runway 260 feet north to widen a taxiway.

Airport officials said reconfiguring runways on the north airfield would more safely accommodate large aircraft like 747s and Airbus 380s, now typically restricted to southern runways.

Many Westchester and Playa del Rey residents oppose the move, saying it would increase noise and pollution while doing little to improve safety.

"I want to see LAX modernized and turned into an airport that travelers will ... use rather than one to avoid," Playa del Rey resident James Ouellet told the board on Tuesday.

Ouellet called safety improvements under the plan to move the runway "so miniscule as to be laughable" and urged airport officials to consider other fixes, such as adding more runway lighting and increasing the number of air traffic controllers in the tower, which he said was 25 percent below full staffing.

When voting for the plan last week, Airport Commission President Michael Lawson called it a "reasonable and fair compromise," saying it would not displace any residents or businesses and would create less pollution and noise than current conditions.

"It will not be a monumental impact on surrounding neighbors, but it will be a very significant and substantial increase in safety for this airport," Lawson said.

Knabe said studies of the plan aren't sufficient to confirm that it complies with the settlement agreement. He wants county attorneys to review the agreement. He also wants county staffers to let city and LAWA officials know that the county "in no uncertain terms, intends to enforce compliance with the settlement agreement."

The proposal is still pending approval by the Los Angeles Planning Commission and City Council and will also need to be reviewed by the Federal Aviation Administration.

The board moved into closed session -- citing litigation -- to discuss the matter further before taking any vote on Knabe's recommendations.

Hans Huth February 15, 2013 at 04:46 PM
In regards to the proposed LAX runway expansion for safety, please see the story that appeared in the February 2010 Los Angeles Times: LAX north runways are deemed safe http://articles.latimes.com/2010/feb/20/local/la-me-lax-report20-2010feb20 Quote: According to MIT's website, "Barnett has been called 'the nation's leading expert' on aviation safety." He said Friday that because flying commercial planes in the U.S. has become so safe, "reducing that risk by a substantial percentage is of limited practical value" because it would save only a few lives a decade. If safety is the purpose, money might be better spent on things other than the runway proposals, he said. When Mark Hansen, a professor of civil engineering at UC Berkeley tried to clarify a point, Commissioner Walter Zifkin, laughed and said, "I'll talk to you later." End Quote. I find the quote "I'll talk to you later" disturbing. If you can't make your point to your peers in public, then something is very fishy. This sounds like a 300+ million Boondoggle to me.


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