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Business, labor groups join to seek continued upgrades at LAX

A plane heads toward one of the northern runways at LAX. A coalition of business and labor groups wants to increase the distance between the facility's two northern runways to more easily accommodate the largest commercial airliners, such as the giant Airbus A380. Neighborhood groups, however, say the project would degrade surrounding residential and commercial areas.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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 revitalization effort, which has been delayed 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 Los Angeles/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.

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Members announced the formation of the coalition on Thursday. The group plans to conduct a campaign to communicate its views to neighborhood organizations, the Federal Aviation Administration and local government agencies involved with the improvement of LAX.

Considerable work is already occurring at the nation’s third-largest airport to help overcome its poor reputation among travelers. A major renovation of the Tom Bradley International Terminal is underway as is the construction of related taxiways. 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 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 city’s airport commission.

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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 that 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 taxiways and one of the two runways during landings.

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

Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, whose district includes neighborhoods near the airport, said he supports modernizing LAX but would fight any effort to separate the northern runways. He doubts that such a project would produce any gains in safety and efficiency.

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

dan.weikel@latimes.com


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