Officials at Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA), the city agency that operates Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), presented a status update of various airport projects to local community members at a town hall meeting in Westchester January 19th.
Issues discussed included the potential relocation of the northern airfield, placement of additional Runway Status Lights, the modernization of the Tom Bradley International Terminal and a project to restore three holes to the Westchester Golf Course, among other items.
Eleventh District Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl opened the meeting, telling the audience that he continues to support modernization of LAX but opposes expansion.
After conferring with LAWA Executive Director Gina Marie Lindsey, Rosendahl announced that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has agreed to install Runway Status Lights in remaining parts of LAX and that the FAA would fund the project.
Lindsey said she has informed the city Board of Airport Commissioners of the project, but as yet didn’t have a signed memorandum of understanding with the FAA. She said the FAA may also take responsibility for the maintenance of the lights.
Regarding a NASA safety study on the airport and the northern airfield that began last year, Rosendahl said the final report is expected to be released in the next 60 days.
The NASA study focuses on the role that the northern airfield plays in safety. Westchester community members say they continue to be greatly concerned that the study would recommend reconfiguration of the northern runway into the community by 340 feet or more, forcing the removal of local businesses.
Roger Johnson, deputy executive director of LAX Development, said that the Bradley Terminal renovation/Bradley West project is anticipated to be completed in December 2012 and renovation of the existing space would be completed in April 2013.
The groundbreaking for the new Bradley West Terminal is planned for Monday, February 8th, said Johnson.
Rosendahl announced that a ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place Thursday, February 18th for the Westchester Golf Course to celebrate its return as an 18-hole course. The course has been short three holes since the airport removed them to construct Westchester Parkway.
In regards to regionalization of LAWA airports, Rosendahl said that Ontario International Airport is waiting for business and can presently handle 12 million take-offs and landings.
“LAX is the cheapest airport for airlines for landings and take-offs in the US, and the three big airlines — United, Delta and American — offer non-stop, direct, frequent and discounted flights all over the place, unlike Ontario,” Rosendahl said.
“If you want true regionalization at Ontario with non-stop, direct, frequent and discounted flights, we need to modernize LAX and pass those costs onto the airlines to raise the fees. Anaheim travelers will be willing to go to Ontario,” he said.
The number of air traffic controllers at LAX was also an issue of concern addressed at the meeting. Rosendahl said that there used to be 47 certified air traffic controllers at LAX, but that number has dropped.
“I don’t know if they have 35 or 36 controllers now, but the controllers want 47 because there is too much overtime and long working hours, with everyone tired and blips showing up on the screen every ten or 30 seconds. We have to stay on top of this,” Rosendahl said.
Lindsey told the audience that the airline industry is struggling and that the airlines have reduced the number of flights to balance pricing power.
LAX has a lot less air traffic than in 2000, and 2009 saw fewer flights than in 2008, she said.
LAX had 67 million passengers in 2000, and only 56.5 million in 2009.
“For those interested in regionalization, that’s good news. Between 2000 and 2007, four of the major airports in Southern California grew by six million passengers — Burbank, Orange County, Long Beach and San Diego,” Lindsey said.
“LAX dropped five million passengers, actually ten million, looking at the entire period from 2000 to 2009,” she said.
“Regionalization is actually working. They’re not going to Ontario or Palmdale, but if the objective is more spreading out of traffic, there has been significant progress.”
With 56 million passengers at LAX, the welcome news is less noise, Lindsey said, “but there is a broader economic impact to losing that kind of traffic that we all need to be aware of.”
Every daily overseas flight brings in about $600 million a year, she said. In Westchester-Playa del Rey, about 9.2 percent of the population has an LAX badge because their jobs are at LAX, Lindsey said.
Johnson told the audience that the Crossfield Taxiway Project for Group VI aircraft and the new LAX fire station are expected to be completed in June.
The Central Utility Plant (CUP), which was built in 1959 and brought online in 1960, is no longer serving the heating and cooling needs for the existing airport, let alone Tom Bradley International Terminal, said Johnson.
The CUP, located in the middle of the central terminal area, is “the heart of the airport and it’s getting the equivalent of a heart transplant,” he said. “We will bring the new plant online and then demolish the old plant, as well as add several miles of new pipelines for hot and cold water, utilities and reclaimed water.”
Information on the Crossfield Taxiway Project and the Bradley West Terminal is online at www.ourlax.org/, “Projects — Publications.”
Johnson noted that the new Bradley Terminal will include an elevated sterile corridor for arrivals, significant room to queue up for primary custom inspections and in-line baggage screening. Ticketing will remain at its current location and will be expanded on with a new corridor and new concessions area.
Asked by a speaker if all of the improvements at the terminal are aesthetic, Lindsey and Johnson said that $350 million is proposed to replace all elevators and escalators because they are 25 years old.
There are safety factors included in the modernization project as well, with many “behind-the-scenes improvements,” Lindsey said.
Johnson said that Airbus A-380 planes have been flying from LAX, but the aggressive delivery schedule that Airbus had a couple of years ago is no longer in effect.
In response to a question about emissions from aircraft, Lindsey said that an emission sources report is being worked on to address the issue.
Michael Feldman, deputy executive director of LAWA Facilities Management Group, briefly mentioned ongoing planning studies for a center line taxiway to improve incursion safety on the north airfield.
Some audience members said that the incursion report for 2009 showed that more incursions took place on the south airfield, which has already been remodeled, complete with a center taxiway.
Lindsey promised the audience that officials would get back to the community on the runway incursion rate, and said there are no specific plans for the north runway.
“We are indeed looking at moving the high speed taxiways, but not looking at a centerline taxiway on the north airfield, yet,” said Lindsey.
“This isn’t the total ultimate fix, but we don’t know what the ultimate fix is. I’m not ruling out the centerline taxiway, but I don’t want to sound like I’m ruling it out. We don’t have a plan for it, but I think anything is on the table right now,” said Lindsey.
She said that the 340-foot runway separation that would move the runway to the south would call for demolishing all of the existing terminals on the north side of the central terminal area.
“That is not practical, and I think it’s fair to say that the airport doesn’t support that. Whether the ultimate fix needs to be 340 feet or 400 feet, or the existing situation, or even a 100-foot separation, we actually don’t know.
“We committed to doing this [NASA] safety study independently because folks were concerned that the first five studies had a vested interest. I’m not promising to recommend what they recommend. Runway separation is highly likely to be recommended because it was recommended in the Master Plan.”
In response to a question about aircraft emissions on the taxiways if the north runway was moved, Lindsey said that a full environmental report would address that. Lindsey acknowledged to the audience that there is a chance the north runway could be moved.
Westchester resident Denny Schneider, president of the Alliance for a Regional Solution to Airport Congestion (ARSAC), told The Argonaut, “Our community remains in jeopardy from LAX growth wishes. Not one time-table commitment was made in the meeting to address an open issue.”
“LAWA studies of safety concentrate on runway movements. Safety should include risks of injury/deaths from failing roadways, terminals and parking structures, along with injuries from traffic accidents and unhealthful air and noise.”