Public hearing on moving LAX runway set for Thursday

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WESTCHESTER (CNS) – A public hearing will be held Thursday over plans to move LAX’s northern-most runway 260 feet toward neighborhoods in Westchester and to lengthen a parallel northern runway toward Sepulveda Boulevard.

A final environmental impact report draft was issued Friday for an LAX plan, which would also make major changes in airport roadways and provides for three major concourses to be built while maintaining a cap of 153 gates.

Los Angeles World Airports staff said LAX is the third busiest airport in the United States, but ranks No. 1 for the volume of people who start or end the aerial parts of their trips. Atlanta and Chicago both have larger passenger counts due to extensive airline hub operations, and their terminals are full of people changing planes.

LAX estimated 61 million passengers went through its eight major terminals in 2011.

In the final EIR, airport staffers said their primary goal was to increase safe airplane operations on the airport’s two northernmost runways, which sit close to houses and businesses in Westchester. Residents there have long campaigned to keep runways from being moved toward them.

Over the past year, thousands of public comments were evaluated and safety and operational issues were considered, according to the EIR, before LAX staff came up with the final set of recommendations released Friday.

Most of the plan had already been revealed by the airport staff, but the issuance of the final environmental impact report sets into motion the path to bring it to the city council for an ultimate decision.

Some residents in the Westchester neighborhoods oppose it and plan to solicit pledges from Los Angeles mayoral candidates that they will oppose moving the runway toward the neighborhood.

In the final EIR, the staff said moving the northernmost runway 260 feet away from the central terminals would allow for a taxiway to be built between the two runways there. That will solve a major operational problem on the parallel runways, where a 1991 runway crash killed 34 people.

The taxiway would also allow 747s and Airbus 380s to use the northern two runways during good weather, airport officials said. The large planes are usually restricted to the southern two runways now.

The plan envisions 153 total gates at LAX, with new wings added to Terminal 3 and the Tom Bradley International Terminal. A new passenger concourse at the airport’s western end would be connected via passenger tunnels to the Bradley Terminal.

East of Terminal 1, a new Terminal Zero would be built on the current Park One site. The 96th Street entrance would be realigned, and Lincoln Boulevard would be relocated north, closer to Westchester Parkway.

A consolidated rental car facility and parking lot would be built east of the airport in a subdivision now mostly owned by LAX. A new terminal for buses and vans serving the airport would be built on 96th Street, and a “people-mover” system would link the new ground transport terminals with all nine airplane terminals.

A light rail station on the new Crenshaw Metro line would be built, either inside the airport loop near Terminal 7 or in the new ground transportation terminal on 96th Street east of Sepulveda Boulevard.

Persons who wish to comment on the plan may do it via mail, on the internet, or may have up to five minutes to address the Board of Airport Commissioners at the hearing, which starts at 9:30 a.m. Thursday at the airport’s offices, 1 World Way, across the airport loop roadway from Terminal 7.

After about two weeks of public comment, the Board of Airport Commissioners will vote on the expansion plan Feb. 5. The plan then goes to the Planning Commission and City Council.

More information is available at www.laxspas.org.

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