Expansion Plans for LAX, Called Sorely Needed, Come Under Fire From Neighbors

Plans to improve the aging airport were criticized by LAX neighbors at a public hearing Saturday

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A review of alternatives to upgrade aging Los Angeles International Airport has drawn opposition from some neighbors of LAX. Officials say the expansion is much needed. Antonio Castelan reports for the NBC4 News at at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 25, 2012. (Published Saturday, Aug 25, 2012)

    Local residents sounded off on LAX's longterm expansion plans at a public meeting at a restaurant near the airport Saturday.

    The event at the Proud Bird was a chance for the public to comment on a long-awaited evaluation of alternatives to improve Los Angeles International Airport.  Possibilities include demolishing and replacing three terminals, moving runways and connecting LAX to the county's light-rail system.

    The changes would be the first major improvements for the aging airport since 1984.

    Six years in the making, the draft document under review Saturday – available at www.laxspas.org – details nine different plans meant to increase safety, efficiency and capacity at LAX, which is now the world's sixth-busiest airport.

    LAX is projected to serve 78.9 million travelers annually by 2025, but officials bemoan its aged facilities that often compare poorly with more modern and efficient airports around the world.

    When Los Angeles World Airports in late July released its draft environmental impact report for the LAX plans, Executive Director Gina Marie Lindsey said it presented a vision for much-needed change.

    "We have two choices: either prepare now by creating a long-term plan to continue the modernization, or limp along with an airfield designed for 1960s-era aircraft and leave the planning and improvements for others to deal with in the future, after natural demand arrives and airport facilities at LAX will be both insufficient and, in some cases, near the end of their useful life,'' Lindsey said last month.

    But criticism of the project, designed to accommodate new and larger aircraft, has been fierce from area neighbors.

    "Between the noise and the flyovers, we're doomed," Playa del Rey resident Joyce Maleady said.

    Business and labor groups, organized as the Coalition to Fix LAX Now, are pushing for the airport expansion to move forward.

    Staff at LAWA won't pick an alternative to recommend until after a 75-day public comment period is complete.

    Included in the proposals are various plans for a new consolidated ground transportation center, a people mover between the center and terminals, the demolition and replacement of Terminals 1, 2 and 3, and the reconfiguration of runways and taxiways, as well as road improvements around the airport.

    Taxiways would be reconfigured on the north side of the airport, where the airfield was designed in the 1960s. Proposed changes on LAX's northern end have been particularly controversial among residents of neighboring Playa del Rey and Westchester, where many have vowed to fight the plans.

    The Specific Plan Amendment Study Draft Environmental Impact Report -- the full title of the document under review by the public -- reviews elements of the LAX master plan that have been called "Yellow Light Projects." The various alternatives in the report would implement none, all or some of the individual projects.

    Public meetings are also set for 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at the downtown Los Angeles Central Library and at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, again at the Proud Bird.

    Public comment will be accepted until Oct. 10, after which a variety of committees will review the plans. The Los Angeles City Council is expected to weigh the improvements next year.

    NBC4's Antonio Castelan contributed to this report.

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