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Labor and business groups push for LAX modernization plan

July 25, 2012 |  1:23 pm

Groups push for LAX modernization
A variety of powerful business and labor organizations have joined forces to push for the continued modernization of Los Angeles International Airport and a controversial plan to reconfigure the two northern runways.

Officials of the Coalition to Fix LAX Now say they want to accelerate the current revitalization effort, which has been slowed for decades by lawsuits, community opposition and the changing visions of past mayoral administrations.

"After nearly 20 years of studies and planning to fix LAX, we felt enough is enough and we needed to put the full effort of the business community behind ensuring that our elected officials make the necessary decisions to give L.A. a 21st century airport," said Gary Toebben, president of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce. "We need to set a path for the future."

In addition to the chamber, the coalition includes the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor AFL-CIO, the LA/Orange Counties Building and Construction Trades Council, the Central City Assn. of Los Angeles, the Valley Industry and Commerce Assn., and the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp.  Members will announce the formation of the coalition Thursday.

The group plans to conduct a campaign to communicate its views to neighborhood organizations, civic leaders, the Los Angeles City Council,  the county Board of Supervisors, the Board of Airport Commissioners, the Federal Aviation Administration and other agencies or individuals involved with the improvement of LAX.

Gina Marie Lindsey, executive director of Los Angeles World Airports, supported the coalition's effort.  “It is important," she said, "that the voices of the city’s business and labor interests are heard as we shape the future of LAX to ensure it can compete and thrive in a world economy.”

Considerable work is already underway at the nation’s third-largest airport to help overcome its poor reputation among air travelers. There is a major renovation of the Tom Bradley International Terminal and the construction of related taxiways and aprons. New concessions are being added and a taxiway has been installed between the two southern runways.

But coalition officials say more needs to be done to improve the northern runways, remodel the airport’s aging domestic terminals, extend light-rail service to LAX, and build a consolidated car rental facility as well as a mid-field concourse west of the Bradley terminal.

"This is our one shot to take decisive steps to get the modern airport we need for this community," said Alan Rothenberg, a chamber vice president and former chairman of the airport commission. "When we show people the economic impact of LAX on the whole region, the number of jobs it creates and the money that flows through every political district, I don’t know of anyone who could effectively oppose this."

Coalition officials say they will initially support a proposal to increase the distance between the two northern runways, which would push one of them closer to residential and commercial areas on the north side. They contend the separation project is needed to make airport operations safer and more efficient.

The current layout is unable to handle the largest commercial airliners, such as the giant Airbus A380, without closing one of the two runways during landings. Moving the large aircraft around on the north side also requires an escort of LAX vehicles and the closure of taxiways.

The proposal, however, is opposed by neighborhood groups that contend the project represents an unwanted expansion of LAX that would disrupt surrounding residential and commercial areas.

A draft environmental impact report that evaluates options for the northern runways and other projects proposed for LAX might be released as early as Friday for public comment and eventual action by the airport commission.

 “Once we determine the north airfield plan, then we can work on a number of other issues," Toebben said. "The northern runways are key."


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Photo: Los Angeles International Airport. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times