Spending doesn’t change controversial runway relocation plan

By Gary Walker

Meeting Federal Aviation Administration requirements to increase the space between and at the ends of its runways will cost LAX about $200 million, but the sticker shock won’t impede the airport’s controversial push to move a northern runway closer to Playa del Rey and Westchester homes.

The airport will upgrade graded separations between three of its runways and extend a buffer zone at the end of a southern runway, with work set to begin in stages over the next two years.

An unrelated plan announced four years ago to separate two northern runways by moving one of them, known as 24R, 260 feet closer to residential areas continues to wend its way through environmental studies and approvals.

“These efforts have no impact on our plans [for the northern runways]. However, there is no date scheduled for relocation of 24R at this time,” said LAX spokeswoman Amanda Parsons.

The northern runway relocation has been the center of a dispute between airport officials and residents, with supporters billing it as modernization work and detractors calling the project an expansion. In April 2013, the Los Angeles City Council voted 10-3 in favor of the runway relocation.

Mayor Eric Garcetti, then the council president, was one of the three no votes, along with then-Councilman Bill Rosendahl. Garcetti’s vote earned the support of many voters close to the airport.

The Alliance for A Regional Solution to Airport Congestion, a Westchester organization opposed to the runway move, has filed a lawsuit to halt the relocation despite the council vote.

“That is insufficient to cause us to give up the lawsuit,” president Denny Schneider said. “We are pressing forward.”

The safety upgrades for existing runways are designed to bring the runway into compliance with federal rules implemented 22 years ago. The work announced last week comes ahead of a 2015 compliance deadline, even though some of the work won’t start until the following year.

LAX representatives have been working with the FAA on the planning and environmental review processes for the runway safety projects, FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said.

“Multiple FAA divisions, including air traffic, airports and flight standards, are involved in the process,” Gregor said.

The scope of the runway safety work includes grading improvements, storm drain construction, installation of new pavement and redirection of service routes as well as relocating landing instruments, airfield lighting and certain perimeter fencing, Parsons said.