Wednesday, August 17, 2016

A $652-million project to move LAX runway will be scrapped after lawsuit

A proposal to move the northernmost runway at Los Angeles International Airport closer to homes will be shelved indefinitely under an agreement announced Wednesday, ending a key lawsuit challenging the planned modernization of LAX.

The settlement, which will go before the City Council for approval next week, would halt a $652-million project to relocate the runway 260 feet closer to the communities of Westchester and Playa del Rey.

Filed in May 2013 by the Alliance for a Regional Solution to Airport Congestion, the suit alleged that Los Angeles World Airports had not done the required environmental impact evaluation or taken measures to reduce any adverse effects resulting from the move.

For years, the runway project has been a major issue in residential neighborhoods because of the potential for increased noise and air pollution.

“We are turning a new page and standing up for communities next to the airport,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said in making the announcement.

The agreement includes plans for a community park on the airport’s north side, as well as additional passenger gates in the central terminal area to replace those that currently must be accessed by shuttle buses.

Safety improvements will be made to the two northern runways, air pollution monitoring will be increased and an ongoing dialogue about airport projects will be established between LAX, the alliance and the surrounding community.

However, the settlement also will lift a cap on the number of passenger gates at the airport — which had limited LAX’s passenger volume to about 79 million annually.

“This is a landmark agreement, a natural meeting of the minds,” said Denny Schneider, president of the alliance. “It demonstrates a new era in cooperation that has not been seen in 40 years.”

The $5.5-billion in airport improvements passed by the council in May 2013 included terminal additions, a transportation center, a consolidated car rental facility, a people mover and stops for Metro light-rail trains.

The most controversial was the plan to separate the two northern runways and install a taxiway between them.

Supporters, including the Federal Aviation Administration and the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, contended the project would increase the safety and efficiency of moving aircraft — especially the largest airliners — around LAX.

Neighborhood activists and local elected officials contended the proposal would be costly and achieve few, if any, of the promised safety improvements.

“The airport and the surrounding neighborhood have been at war for decades,” said Councilman Mike Bonin, whose district includes LAX. “Today, there is peace.”

Two similar lawsuits brought by Culver City and Inglewood are pending. Garcetti said he has met with officials from both cities and was confident the suits could be resolved.

(Dan Weikel - The Los Angeles Times)

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