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Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) expansion is still on the agenda for Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) officials, despite the historic legal agreement in January limiting certain elements of that proposed expansion, and local residents are urging vigilance and emphasizing the need to attend public meetings scheduled by LAWA.

Los Angeles World Airports is the city agency that owns and operates LAX and three other airports in Southern California.

In “public outreach” meetings earlier this year, the agency disingenuously handed out a “list of crucial questions” (crucial to LAWA) and invited meeting participants to discuss those questions and raise questions of their own in small groups, with the results to be presented later to the audience.

LAX NORTH RUNWAYS —

One question at the earlier meetings concerned moving the LAX North Airfield Complex runway 300 feet north and building a center taxiway between the two runways to address safety issues, according to LAWA, and the question may well be up for discussion at another meeting Saturday morning, August 26th.

Currently, the southernmost runway is being moved and a center taxiway will be constructed at LAX.

Also proposed are extensions of Runway 24R to Pershing Drive and 24L to Sepulveda Boulevard.

Bill Rosendahl, Los Angeles City Councilmember of the 11th District, which includes LAX, sent an e-mail to some of his constituents Sunday, August 20th, to announce that he had heard about the North Airfield Complex runway, and had spoken with 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, to which Kennard agreed.”

Los Angeles World Airports insists that incursions on the runways are the reason to move runways, and in the case of the southern runway and the addition of a center taxiway, they would appear to be correct, since most of the incursions occur there.

Testimony was given on March 20th before the Aviation Subcommittee on Airspace Redesign over Southern California and Runway Incursions — a subcommittee of the House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure — by Bill Withycombe, the regional administrator of the Western-Pacific Region of the FAA.

“Roughly 80 percent of runway incursions at LAX occur on the south side of the airport,” said Withycombe.

“This project (moving the southern runway and building a center taxiway) is expected to reduce runway incursions at LAX,” said Withycombe as he praised a grant from the FAA of $38.8 million, plus an additional $29.5 million for the project.

Withycombe also talked about a newer warning system that is currently being deployed, both at LAX and other airports, to further enhance safety and “improve error tolerance, as human error is inevitable.”

A change to the airfield paint markings standard for taxiway centerlines is now required at LAX and other airports, as proactive ways to alert pilots so they don’t inadvertently enter a runway without authorization, said Withycombe.

Withycombe’s testimony can be found on the FAA Web site by entering Withycombe’s name in “Search” at www.faa.gov/news /testimony

LAX RING ROAD — A second question on LAWA’s list is “concerns about Pershing Drive,” which borders Westchester Parkway and Imperial Highway in Playa del Rey.

The question implies that residents do have concerns about this area, but they are not the same concerns as LAWA’s.

The concern of residents is that Westchester Parkway, which was ceded as a mitigation in previous LAX expansion, would be taken away to form a ring road with Pershing Drive and Imperial Highway to facilitate airport use, such as extending runways to the west, which would cut into the dunes to allow takeoffs further west, near homes that remained after LAX annexed many homes off Vista del Mar in the 1970’s.

If Westchester Parkway, Pershing Drive and Imperial Highway are taken away to form this ring road, the new fire station built on Westchester Parkway would no longer have direct access to Playa del Rey residents in case of emergency, nor would it have access to emergencies on Vista del Mar and the beach at Playa del Rey.

Westchester Parkway is also a very convenient access road for residents and visitors going to Westchester or the beach.

Imperial Highway, at the end of Pershing Drive heading east toward Sepulveda Boulevard, is also an access to the freeway system.

As many residents of Playa del Rey are aware, South Bay traffic floods down Vista del Mar every morning and every evening, to reach Culver Boulevard and the Marina Freeway (SR-90) on-ramp to local freeways.

Some of these southbound Vista del Mar motorists also cut up Imperial Highway to Pershing Drive to Westchester Parkway or to Culver Boulevard, going through residential streets in Playa del Rey.

Building this proposed ring road would make residents of Playa del Rey near the beach feel like prisoners in their own homes.

New proposed developments in Playa del Rey include the Toes Beach area, and several businesses have reportedly been or are being sold, including La Marina and another restaurant, as well as the building that houses Tanner’s Coffee in Playa del Rey on Culver Boulevard and several other businesses are for sale on that small stretch of Culver Boulevard.

Demolition of old buildings and construction of new buildings in such a compressed area, compounded by South Bay traffic speeding through and lack of access to Pershing Drive, Westchester Parkway and Imperial Highway would virtually lock down an entire area.

Other questions on the LAWA list at previous public meetings may hold other ugly surprises for residents in Westchester and beyond, but as long as our local politicians know that we are watching out for our community’s interests and attending any public meetings having to do with those interests, it behooves these politicians and LAWA officials to not ignore the will of constituents and residents.

Let’s hope there’s a good turnout of concerned residents for the LAX Specific Plan Amendment Study public outreach meeting from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, August 26th, in the Flight Path Learning Center, LAX Imperial Terminal, 6661 W. Imperial Highway, Westchester.

Information, www.laxmaster plan.org