Several of the proposed concept development goals of the LAX Specific Plan Study for Los Angeles International Airport by Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) would increase the “footprint” of LAX (Los Angeles International Airport) by building a new West Satellite Terminal and increasing capacity on airport access roads.
LAWA is the city airport agency that owns and operates LAX and three other Southern California airports.
The fifth pair of public meetings for the LAX Specific Plan Study was held Wednesday and Saturday, August 23rd and 26th, at the Flight Path Learning Center and Museum, 6661 Imperial Highway in Westchester.
The Wednesday night meeting had over 130 attendees — the highest number of any of the public hearings — and the Saturday meeting had approximately 80 attendees.
When Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa ran for mayor, he signed a campaign pledge with the Alliance for a Regional Solution to Airport Congestion (ARSAC), pledging to keep LAX “within existing facilities” and to work for regionalization of air traffic.
The West Satellite Concourse was originally identified as a “yellow light” project under a compromise to Mayor Jim Hahn’s LAX Master Plan Alternative D.
It is now considered a “green light” project that can be developed under the legal settlement with the Cities of El Segundo, Inglewood and Culver City, Alliance for a Regional Solution to Airport Congestion, the County of Los Angeles, the City of Los Angeles, the City Council of Los Angeles, former mayor James Hahn, Los Angeles World Airports, the Board of Airport Commissioners of the City of Los Angeles and the California Coastal Commission.
“We oppose the majority of all concepts considered that would expand LAX capacity, and after the legal agreement expires in 2020, LAX could increase the gate cap for terminals tremendously,” said Denny Schneider, vice president of the Alliance for a Regional Solution to Airport Congestion (ARSAC).
Modernization of LAX, security and the rebuilding of Tom Bradley International Terminal are acknowledged by many to be critical, but some meeting attendees said that many concept development goals proposed by LAWA go beyond modernization and directly to expansion.
Discussion of the Northern Runway proposed project — moving Runways 24R and 24L and building a center taxiway — was tabled at both the Wednesday and Saturday meeting at the request of Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who represents the 11th District, which includes LAX.
Rosendahl made the request to Lydia Kennard, the executive director of LAX, requesting that “this potential proposal be tabled until or unless the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) can demonstrate hard data that genuine safety concerns warrant even raising the subject.”
While LAWA officials contend that moving the Northern Runways and building a center taxiway would alleviate incursions, testimony before the Congressional House of Representatives Aviation Subcommittee by Bill Withycombe, the regional administrator of the FAA Western Pacific Region did not support that claim.
“Roughly 80 percent of runway incursions at LAX occur on the south side of the airport,” said Withycombe.
The South Side Airfield runways are currently under construction to move them and to build a center taxiway.
Withycombe’s testimony can be found on the FAA Web site by entering his name in “Search” at http://www.faa.gov/news/testimo ny/news_story.cfm?newsId=6965
Mike Doucette, chief of airport planning for LAWA, presented the proposed concept development goals — stating that these concepts had been developed through public input and from advisory committees — geared toward improving access to LAX:
— create direct freeway access to the LAX terminal curbs;
— reduce congestion on airport access roads;
— increase points of access to and from the Central Terminal Area;
— establish a direct transit connection to the LAX terminals;
— increase security on LAX terminal access roads;
— reduce air quality impacts caused by traffic congestion in and around LAX;
— reduce air quality impacts caused by traffic congestion in and around LAX;
— increase capacity on airport access roads; and
— reduce congestion on Central Terminal Area curb fronts.
Doucette said that 150 intersections around the airport have been monitored to determine how the traffic operates and where it comes from.
A Green Line Study, an Air Apportionment Study and a study to determine origin and destination of LAX passengers are also planned, said Doucette.
Another project by LAWA includes electrification of cargo gates and hangars to avoid running of jet engines for use of power, thereby reducing air pollution, said Doucette.
All of LAWA’s ground vehicles must also seek alternative fuel sources to eliminate air pollution, according to Doucette.
After Doucette’s presentation, attendees split into breakout groups to discuss the concept ideas, to provide feedback, or present improvements to those concepts.
Feedback from each breakout group was then presented to the entire audience.
A number of attendees said the concept meeting was flawed because no one had prior access to the concept ideas, making it impossible to intelligently comment on the concepts or to provide detailed feedback in such a short period of time.
Another common complaint was that the core of the comments and concerns made at the breakout sessions was lost in simply writing the subject of the comment on the easels provided, leaving out and filtering crucial concerns of the attendees.
Several attendees said that LAWA’s intent was to “divide and conquer” by separating the audience into groups, with LAWA facilitators to guide the groups to consider specific ideas, and failing to put the cohesive thoughts expressed at the breakout sessions into an understandable format.
Others said the only way these public meetings could be fair would be to record all questions and feedback and have that information available to everyone.
Other audience questions and comments included:
— Why is the overall timeframe so short to process the information before it is acted upon?
— Who came up with questions number three and seven (increasing points of access to and from the Central Terminal Area; and the increase of capacity on airport access roads)?
— The concept plan is just a rehash of previous mayoral administration ideas with no new ideas.
— Exactly what is causing the traffic to LAX through residential neighborhoods.
Some audience members asked how FAA-driven plans for airfield redesign not only at LAX and in Southern California but across the nation are affecting the concept development goals. (According to the FAA Web site, some airports have no options left in landside redesign.)
Concept development goals included:
The Century Boulevard Double-deck Concept would locate a new interchange at the San Diego (I-405) Freeway, routing traffic directly to the Central Terminal Area at LAX on the top level of Century Boulevard with an elevated double-deck of six lanes (three on each side).
The south side of Century Boulevard would be utilized to avoid blocking the views of hotels located at Sepulveda and Aviation Boulevards, and access to local businesses and Westchester would need to be provided, according to Doucette.
The 98th Street and Century Boulevard Concept would offer a roadway westbound on 98th Street and eastbound on Century Boulevard with six lanes to the airport, and would tie in with the rental car facilities, improve southbound and northbound traffic, and allow the potential for Green Line extension planning.
The Arbor Vitae Street Concept would provide a smaller interchange at Arbor Vitae Street southbound to the airport, elevated down 98th Street, returning on Century Boulevard.
The Front-Door Access Concept would utilize Terminal 1 as a drop-off/pick-up point only, siphoning off traffic before it bottlenecks at this point, with an Automated People Mover stop (formerly a “yellow light,” now a “green light” project under the legal settlement) and a Sepulveda and Century Boulevard interchange that doesn’t funnel traffic through the entire Central Terminal Area.
Lennox/Century (I-105) Freeway Interchange Concept would provide an airport interchange where a northbound off-ramp currently exists, with an exit at Lennox, using the elevated 98th Street into the airport and Century Boulevard out of the airport.
Sepulveda Tunnels Concept would provide for construction of tunnels on the east and west sides of the existing tunnel, eliminating the current build-up of traffic to enter the Century Freeway (I-105), providing access to the Central Terminal Area and exiting to the west from a tunnel without stops.
Doucette said the tunnel concept was first studied in 1992-93 and would need to be restudied to count traffic alleviation and address security and potential flooding during rainy periods.
The tunnel concept would retain all existing local movement on Sepulveda Boulevard, providing direct access southbound or westbound to the freeway.
The Midfield Satellite Concept (originally a “yellow light” concept, now a “green light” concept through the legal settlement) would take traffic west on Imperial Highway on a partially elevated roadway and off Sepulveda Boulevard, allowing traffic from Lincoln Boulevard to Westchester Parkway and then down to the airport.
West Satellite Concourse (a former “yellow light” project, now a “green light” project due to legal settlement) would place a terminal at the west end of the airport, adjacent to Pershing Drive and Westchester Parkway, extending the Century Freeway (I-105) onto airport property, and utilizing Westchester Parkway and part of Pershing Drive.
Doucette told the audience that Westchester Parkway was originally a mitigation for business use during an earlier period, and that as such it could be annexed for use by LAWA.
This concept would bring approximately six to eight million passengers to the West Satellite terminal, planned for at least 25 percent international travel, according to some individuals.
Under the original LAX Master Plan Alternative D, this terminal would have been built behind the Tom Bradley International Terminal, which is scheduled to undergo renovation.
“Federal laws are stopping opponents of LAX expansion, and residents need to call Mayor Villaraigosa’s office to make their voices heard about their opposition to the airport’s expansion,” said ARSAC’s Schneider.
A call by The Argonaut to Mayor Villaraigosa transportation deputy Jaime de la Vega had not been returned at press time.
“I’ve seen all the options and I like none,” said Congresswoman Maxine Waters at the Wednesday night public meeting.
BREAKOUT GROUP COMMENTS — Regionalization of air traffic throughout Southern California was a critical concern, with many at the meeting, who said that not enough is being done to achieve regionalization.
The greatest opposition expressed by attendees was against the West Satellite Concourse terminal and the potential loss of Westchester Parkway as a primary access road.
At the end of the Saturday meeting, attorney Edgar Saenz, field deputy for Congresswoman Waters, asked for a show of hands of the audience of those in favor of the West Satellite terminal, and not one hand was raised.
When Saenz asked how many were opposed, a majority of hands were raised.
Critics say the West Satellite concept would take away access to Westchester Parkway.
The loss of Imperial Highway and access to the freeway system were also cited as a negative aspect.
More air pollution and noise added to the airplanes already taking off over the ocean within proximity of homes, and damage to the El Segundo blue butterfly dune habitat were also mentioned.
The concept that seemed most favored was the double-decking of Century Boulevard with tunnels on Sepulveda Boulevard.
Other issues of concern included:
— security and terrorism;
— the Green Line, the Flyaway and other forms of rapid transit to cut down on vehicle traffic;
— mitigation of vehicle emissions related to global warming;
— elimination of commercial truck traffic near the airport;
— access to Westchester High School and St. Bernard High School if the West Satellite concept is chosen;
— collection points near passengers homes where they could drive and take a shuttle or other rapid transit to the airport without bringing passengers to local areas to park and congest traffic; and
— Lincoln Boulevard traffic congestion.
Some attendees said that concepts don’t exist “in a vacuum,” and questioned how many people would be flying out of LAX.
For more information, www.laxmasterplan.org