A lot of people talk about Palmdale Regional Airport as an alternative for those who traditionally use Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), but new Airport Commissioner Valeria Velasco decided to check it out for herself.

Velasco met Palmdale Mayor Richard Ledford and was given the royal tour of the 17,000-acre Palmdale airport by airport officials before boarding a Scenic Airlines flight for Las Vegas.

“We had so much fun,” Velasco said after the flight. “There’s 17,000 acres out there, and you just don’t know how big that really is unless you go see it for yourself. You could put five LAXs out at Palmdale.”

Velasco hopes the Palmdale airport will soon be the home of many passenger flights —Ýa move that would relieve congestion at LAX, the world’s third-busiest airport.

Velasco says Palmdale could be a key component in dealing with the Southern California air traffic crunch.

Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) — is the City of Los Angeles entity that oversees city airport operations at LAX, Palmdale, Ontario and Van Nuys.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa says his goals are to increase the safety of air operations under the control of LAWA, decrease reliance on LAX and develop a regional plan so no one area bears the full weight of meeting Southern California air-passenger needs.

Paul Haney, LAWA deputy executive director for public and community affairs, called Velasco’s use of Palmdale Regional Airport “symbolic.”

“It is demonstrating in a tangible way a commitment to a regional solution” to overcrowding at LAX, Haney said.

The Palmdale mayor agreed, noting that Velasco “is an advocate for a regional approach to airport development in Southern California, and we think an advocate that will help us move forward with some opportunities for growth here.”

“I think Mayor Villaraigosa has been pretty good about bringing people to the airport board who are looking to champion a regional approach,” Ledford said.

“The airport out there is fantastic,” Velasco said. “There’s free parking, you pull right up to the curb, and it’s relaxing and customer-friendly. I really hope Scenic is successful and that other airlines follow their lead.”

Scenic operates one flight a day from Palmdale to Las Vegas. Tickets are a bit more expensive when flying out of Palmdale, but Velasco said the saving in time and stress are well worth a few extra bucks.

“If I go to Las Vegas again, I will definitely fly from Palmdale,” she said. “It was a great experience.”

LINCOLN CONSTRUCTION — Work has started on a $9 million Caltrans project to widen and realign Lincoln Boulevard from LMU Drive to Bali Way, and improve the intersection of Lincoln and Sepulveda Boulevards.

The project is divided into three locations, with some work occurring concurrently.

Construction currently is taking place between Fiji Way and Bali Way, where traffic has been reduced to two lanes in each direction.

Work in this location includes median modifications as well as lighting and signal improvements.

It is anticipated that this work will be completed by the end of this fall, at which time lanes will be restored to three in each direction.

At the second location — LMU Drive to Fiji Way — construction comprises realigning Lincoln Boulevard and creating three lanes in each direction, including lighting, signal and drainage improvements.

The majority of the project will take place at this location, with work expected to begin early this fall.

Lanes at this location currently vary from two to four.

At various stages of work, which will take approximately a year and a half, lanes will be reduced but will never be less than two lanes in each direction.

The third location is the intersection of Lincoln and Sepulveda Boulevards, where construction involves modifications and improvements to the center medians as well as lighting and signal improvements.

At this location, two lanes in each direction will be maintained during construction via temporary traffic control and concrete construction barriers.

When completed, there will be four lanes in each direction through the intersection.

The project is anticipated to be finished by mid-2007 and is designed to increase capacity, improve traffic flow, reduce energy consumption, improve air quality and provide improved traffic circulation on the busy north/south corridor.

PANCAKE BREAKFAST — On Saturday, October 22nd, the Westchester High School Booster Club will have its annual Pancake Breakfast from 7:30 to 11:30 a.m. in the school Social Hall at 7400 Manchester Ave.

All proceeds will go to support academic programs, clubs and sports teams including the Academic Booster Club and the California Boys Basketball State Champions.

This year, proceeds can also be directed to either the Orville Wright Middle School Booster Club or the newly formed Westchester/Playa del Rey Education Foundation.

Parents of school-age children are particularly welcome.

In addition to a sumptuous breakfast of pancakes, sausage and juice under the keen eye of lead chef James Hill, tours of the 43-acre campus will be offered.

Information will be available on Westchester High School’s numerous advanced placement classes and its highly successful “small learning communities” for incoming freshmen.

Parking will be available in the student parking lot at the corner of Manchester Avenue and Park Hill Drive.

Tickets are $4, $1.50 for children six and younger, and are available at the door.

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