A plan to remodel and expand Los Angeles International Airport that has garnered opposition from nearby residents was approved Tuesday by the LA Board of Airport Commissioners.
The commission decided among nine alternative plans for expanding the aging airport, including one that involves moving a runway 260 feet to the north.
That would put the runway closer to the community of Westchester, where neighbors say the noise and pollution would be even more disturbing to them than it is now.
Although the proposal was approved, a number of hurdles remain. Details of the plan must still be worked out, and it must win support from both the Planning Commission, City Council and the mayor.
Airport analysts working for the commission recommended that the agency adopt the proposal, however, saying that it is the only way LAX can accommodate today’s larger aircraft.
Commissioner Boyd Hight noted that "an airport as important as LAX needs to have ... the capability to handle large aircraft without shutting down operations for special handling in the runway," as well as separated runways to improve safety.
They have also recommended that the commission build a new people-mover to help travelers navigate the terminals and connect with a proposed new public transportation hub.
Last week, residents already living under airport flight paths crowded a meeting to decry the plan.
"The expansion enables even more flights to come in here," resident Denny Schneider said during the meeting. "We were already at gridlock in the sky."
Commissioner Valeria Velasco, the only member of the board who voted against the plan, began a 20-minute-long statement by playing a recording of the noise airplanes make while flying over her house.
Velasco moved into a neighborhood near LAX in 1988 with the knowledge she would be living near an airport, but she said the anticipated number of passengers at the airport has ballooned since then, and now planes fly over her house every two minutes.
She questioned whether moving the runway would actually improve safety at the airport.
"I want to leave a legacy of doing what's right," she said.
During the past year, thousands of public comments were evaluated and safety and operational issues were considered, according to the final environmental impact report for the project, before LAX staff came up with the final set of recommendations.
In the final EIR, airport staffers concluded that 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.
To read the airport commission's full environmental impact report on the proposals, and see a map of how the runway move would work, click on this link.
City News Service contributed to this report.