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Westchester residents, airport officials await LAX runway safety report

February 18, 2010 |  4:39 pm
A long-awaited report is due Friday on whether Los Angeles International Airport should improve air safety by widening the distance between its two north runways. That document has residents near LAX on edge because one of the options under consideration is to move a runway 340 feet north into Westchester.

A committee of academics, working with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, plans to release a preliminary copy of the report at 10 a.m., telling a panel of neighborhood and business representatives near LAX what it thinks is the best strategy for the two runways on the airport's north side.

“We’re nervous because we don’t know what’s coming,” said Denny Schneider, a member of the Westchester - Playa del Rey Neighborhood Council. Schneider, who also serves on the committee that is scheduled to receive the report, said he fears the document might persuade elected officials, including Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, to push a runway and surrounding airport land north into the Lincoln Boulevard business district.

Los Angeles World Airports Executive Director Gina Marie Lindsey, speaking Thursday afternoon to the Los Angeles Current Affairs Forum, said she has not received the report. She said the study by the academics has been “so independent that we don’t know, before they release the study, what it will say.”

Airport officials have been trying to determine whether a greater distance between those two runways would reduce the number of near-misses involving arriving and departing jets. Lindsey said that the runways on the north side of LAX were designed for smaller jets built in the 1960s.

The academic committee was charged with looking at five options. One would involve doing nothing, while a second would push the northernmost runway 100 feet north into Westchester. A third would push the northernmost runway north by 340 feet. A fourth would result in the elimination of one of the two runways on the north side of LAX. A fifth would call on the airport to relocate one of its north runways 340 feet south – a move that would require the demolition of Terminals 1, 2 and 3 at the airport.

--David Zahniser at Los Angeles City Hall