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The Board of Airport Commissioners on Monday took a very important step forward in the effort to begin the renovations that will make Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) safer and more attractive to airlines and passengers.
Led by President Alan Rothenberg and Commissioner Walter Zifkin, the board approved a contract to begin the environmental review for a number of critical projects. However, none is more crucial – or controversial – than how to increase separation between the parallel runways on the North Airfield.
The northern runways were designed for aircraft much smaller than those flying today and those being designed for the future. Last August, two planes carrying 296 passengers came within 37 feet of colliding on a north runway. Rightly, the commission decided that it could no longer delay action when the safety of millions of passengers is at risk.
The environmental review will provide the clearest set of data for airport officials and the city’s elected officials to decide which alternative will provide the safest, most cost-effective and environmentally sensitive solution for this potentially catastrophic problem.
In the coming days, the Los Angeles City Council will be pressured from renovation opponents to put the brakes on the process because one of the possible alternatives moves the northernmost runway closer to homes. Opponents will use every means possible to delay the environmental impact report.
Some who object to the environmental review will demand that the process wait until NASA’s Ames Research Center completes a runway safety study. Recently, NASA has discussed limiting its involvement in aviation research to focus more time on space exploration. If NASA gets to the report, Gina Marie Lindsey, the airport’s executive director, has pledged to add NASA’s data to the two-year environmental study when it is available. Her word is good.
The City Council must resist all efforts to delay. Instead, they should be focused on passenger safety and the millions of people living in their districts who depend on LAX for employment, business and leisure travel, and the movement of goods produced by the companies for which our citizens work.
A Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. study completed last August showed that the passengers and cargo handled by LAX’s international flights alone contribute $82.5 billion annually to our economy and sustains 363,700 jobs with $19.3 billion in wages. A safe, thriving airport means more jobs for Angelenos and additional tax revenues for city services. We cannot afford to see more airlines move Los Angeles routes to other cities in the western United States.
It’s been two years since the City Council approved the settlement with neighbors to restart the planning process. It will take at least another two years to complete the environmental impact report, which will give everyone the information necessary to make sound decisions.
Over the next 24 months, there will be plenty of opportunities for citizens to comment on the alternatives and how they impact the lives of people living near the airport, the people who use the airport and those who work at the airport. The sooner we get the process started, the sooner people will have the opportunity to impact the options to be considered.
Yesterday, the Board of Airport Commissioners did the job the mayor asked them to do when he appointed them: make the best policy decisions to further the interests of all Los Angeles residents. Certainly, there will be tough decisions ahead, but this decision begins the long-awaited process that will bring us closer to restoring LAX to a safer and more competitive international asset.
We applaud them for their action and encourage our members and the broader community to communicate their support for LAX to our city’s leaders. Voice your support today by sending them an e-mail.
And that’s The Business Perspective.
Gary L. Toebben
President & CEO
Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce
The Business Perspective is a weekly opinion piece by Gary Toebben, President & CEO of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, produced with the input of Senior Policy Advisor Rusty Hammer.
Gary Toebben, President & CEO, Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce
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