Congresswoman Maxine Waters is urging the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to postpone its funding of a Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) south runway relocation project.
Waters represents Westchester in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The FAA awarded a $38.8 million grant to LAX Friday, August 5th, for the proposed South Airfield Improvement Project.
The project is one of the “green light” projects in LAX Master Plan Alternative D that has been approved by the Los Angeles City Council.
The project would relocate Runway 7R/25L 56 feet to the south so that a new parallel runway could be constructed between Runway 7R/25L and Runway 7L/25R.
In addition, new connector taxiways, navigational aids and airfield lighting would be built.
Monday, August 8th, Waters asked the FAA to postpone the project’s grant funding.
“I write to express my concerns about funding for the relocation of Runway 7R/25L prior to consideration of the environmental impact of the runway relocation project,” Waters wrote.
Waters sent the letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, who oversees the FAA.
She also sent copies of the letter to FAA administrator Marion Blakey and George Aiken, manager of the safety and standards branch of the FAA Western Pacific Region.
Grant funding for the project comes after the FAA requested that Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) — the City of Los Angeles agency that owns and operates LAX — implement measures to minimize runway incur- sions.
This year, there have been approximately six runway incursions involving planes on the south side of LAX.
“By reducing the potential for incursions, the new center taxiway will improve safety for the millions of Americans who travel to and from LAX each year,” Blakey said.
The airport department recently released a draft environmental impact report for the project.
The 1,370-page report is available for public review and comment until Thursday, September 15th.
Waters told the FAA that her staff is currently reviewing the report and that residents who live near LAX have already expressed concerns about the project.
“Closing the runway during construction will require flights to be redistributed among LAX’s three other runways,” Waters wrote.
“This in turn will require aircraft to idle longer and taxi greater distances, which could increase harmful emissions and expose residents to higher cancer risks.
“Moreover, six schools and thousands of residents in Los Angeles, Westchester and Inglewood could experience higher noise levels due to changes in takeoff and landing patterns,” she wrote.
Waters suggested that the FAA postpone grant funding until her staff and the public are given more time to consider environmental impacts and possibly come up with project alternatives.
Before construction can begin on the project, the City of Los Angeles must complete the environmental review process and a subsequent city approval process.
In awarding grant funding to LAX, Blakey said the FAA was taking action to move the project forward.
“The FAA looks forward to working with the City of Los Angeles and LAX to see this project through to its successful completion,” Blakey said.
Grant funds come from the FAA Airport Improvement Program.
Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa recently traveled to Washington, D.C., and lobbied Mineta and Blakey for federal funding of Southern California’s major transportation projects.
“We are convinced the safety of travelers, employees and neighbors at LAX will be significantly improved when the LAX South Airfield Project is completed,” said Kim Day, LAWA executive director.
“There is agreement that moving forward with the reconfiguration of the LAX South Airfield is vital to improving safety.”
Waters asked FAA officials to give attention to the concerns she expressed in her letter and to also respond to the letter.