Berman Joins Critics of Airport Expansion

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Siding with critics of Burbank Airport expansion plans, Rep. Howard L. Berman (D-Panorama City) asked the Federal Aviation Administration on Wednesday to delay approval of the project.

The FAA is now studying the environmental impact statement on airport expansion, which was submitted in October. Work cannot begin without FAA certification of the study.

In a letter, Berman stated that approval now of the environmental report would be "a grave mistake."

Expansion has been at the center of a political firestorm, with nearby residents--some of whom Berman represents--concerned about added noise from expansion. Proponents say the existing air terminal must be replaced to keep up with growing demand. Last month, expansion critics on the Burbank City Council and proponents on the Burbank Airport Authority agreed to a six-month truce and mediation of their differences.

But Airport Authority President Carl Raggio dismissed Berman's letter Wednesday as "political posturing" and said it is silly to think the airport would abandon the truce.

"We made a commitment to go through the mediation process, and that's exactly what we will do," Raggio said. "I would hope that the city of Burbank would stick to the same kind of commitment."

Raggio said he opposes delaying the FAA's approval of the environmental study because in the long run it will delay construction of a new terminal.

"We have already spent $3 million preparing for the new terminal, and delays would just cost more money," he said. "We would be foolish to take any action that delays the FAA's decision."

Berman said FAA action could disrupt the six-month "cooling-off period" recently agreed on by Burbank, Glendale and Pasadena, the three cities that control the airport.

"Recent local events provide at least a glimmer of hope that a resolution may yet be possible," wrote Berman, whose 26th District includes neighborhoods in North Hollywood and Sun Valley that lie beneath the airport's flight paths.

"Any decision [on the EIS] would likely prejudice the outcome of the negotiations among the three cities."

In recent weeks, Burbank City Council members and other airport critics had urged the Airport Authority to ask the FAA to put off its decision on the environmental document until after the truce, but a majority of the Airport Commission has refused.

Burbank Councilman Ted McConkey said Wednesday that the impending approval of the environmental report was "hanging over the heads" of those who fear the Airport Authority might use it to abandon the truce and go ahead with work on the expansion. McConkey said he is hopeful the FAA would heed Berman's request.

"Certification . . . is a major step in a direction that the city of Burbank doesn't want to go right now," McConkey said. "The cooling-off period is supposed to be exactly that--nobody takes any action that would upset the other side."

McConkey added that he "doesn't have a whole lot of confidence that they [the authority] wouldn't do something. That's why it's crucial that the FAA not certify at this time."

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