Originally published at www.foxandhoundsdaily.com
It is not hyperbole to say that the upcoming vote by the members of the L.A. City Council on the new long-rangeplan to modernize the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is the most important vote they will cast during their term in office. Their vote will determine whether our gateway to the world moves forward with an exciting plan for modernization or whether we settle for piecemeal investments that will never create the safe and efficient passenger experience that is being offered at competing U.S. airports and other gateways around the world.
Moving the north runway at LAX by 260 ft. — 87 yards — to create a center taxiway is important to maximizing passenger safety and essential to airline efficiency. It is the cornerstone of the new long-term plan approved by the Board of Airport Commissioners and the City Planning Commission.
As Michael Huerta, the administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) told a group of L.A. civic leaders in Washington, D.C. last month, “The north airfield at LAX has been a concern of the FAA for many years. It is essential to separate the two runways and create a taxiway for large aircraft to eliminate incursions. We regard this improvement at LAX as a project of national importance.”
Safety and efficiency on the north airfield is not a new problem. Three years ago, previous FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt, expressed the same strong sentiment in a letter to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Prior to that, the need for runway separation was recognized in the approved Master Plan Alternative D — but the additional separation (340 ft.) was planned to be accomplished by moving the inboard runway south and demolishing all three north terminals.
Opponents argue that the north airfield is safe enough. What they do not talk about is that every time one of the new large jets lands or takes off on the north airfield, the other aircraft must hold still until that jet is off the airfield. A shutdown to the north airfield happens 12 times per day and will increase rapidly in future years. I personally experienced this shutdown six months ago and it took 50 minutes from the time we landed to when we deplaned. I grew up in a rural area where there were one-lane bridges. Yes, they were safe as long as two cars did not want to use the bridge at the same time. Only third world airports shut down airfields when a large plane is landing or taking off.
The plan to move the north runway by 87 yards does not require purchasing any new land, houses or offices buildings. It utilizes property within the LAX fence line that was purchased years ago and In-N Out Burger can stay where it is.
LAX is serving 4 million less passengers than it did 12 years ago. The upcoming vote by the L.A. City Council is about jobs, passenger safety, customer satisfaction, rail transit service and pride in a world class airport. Tens of millions of area residents and visitors to Los Angeles will benefit from a vote to confirm the plan recommended by the Board of Airport Commissioners and the City Planning Commission. We cannot allow politics to trump jobs, passenger safety, and long overdue rail service to LAX.
Gary Toebben is the President & CEO of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce