Airport panel approves $6 billion project

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Wave Wire Services

LOS ANGELES — The Board of Airport Commissioners has recommended approval of the $6 billion Airfield Terminal Modernization Project, which officials at Los Angeles International Airport say will reduce traffic on public streets and improve customer experience.

The project will be sent to the Los Angeles City Council for final approval. Councilman Mike Bonin, who represents neighborhoods surrounding LAX, introduced a series of motions Oct. 6 aimed at having Los Angeles World Airports, which oversees the airport, use the project as an opportunity to advance sustainability, airport access and worker protections.

“LAX modernization will assure we get a world-class airport,” Bonin said. “But it is equally important that we get an airport that is a first-class neighbor and a first-rate employer. We have a tremendous opportunity to make sure the improvements at LAX benefit travelers, people who live near the airport and the employees who make the airport function every day.”

LAX officials say the project will create 4,700 long-term jobs and thousands of construction jobs. LAX’s website says the project will reduce airport-related congestion and traffic on public streets, as well as improve the customer experience at the airport. It also claims that reconfiguring its taxiways and runway exits will lead to less aircraft idling and a decrease in air pollution.

But Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Los Angeles, came out against the plan, saying she opposes any gate increase at LAX, and that the expansion would correspond to more pollution, traffic and noise for her constituents.

An increase in LAX capacity of this magnitude would facilitate a significant increase in the number of planes being accommodated by LAX and a corresponding increase in landings and departures, harmful emissions, traffic congestion and noise for my constituents and all who live and work in the surrounding communities,” Waters said in a Sept. 15 letter to the Board of Airport Commissioners.

Los Angeles World Airports, which owns and operates LAX and the Van Nuys Airport, responded to the letter in a statement to City News Service on Sept. 15, saying that it is “creating the world-class airport our city deserves, while at the same time being a good neighbor to our local communities by providing jobs and opportunities to businesses and residents, and promoting sustainability elements in our project.”

Bonin’s package of motions seeks to use the modernization project to benefit the airport’s employees and surrounding communities, according to the councilman.

The first motion, which was co-introduced with Councilman Paul Krekorian, seeks a plan to achieve carbon-neutral facilities at the airport by 2035. The motion would order a report from LAWA within 120 days on:

• Power generation opportunities on land owned by LAWA, including at LAX, the Van Nuys Airport and its land in Palmdale.

• Sustainable aviation fuel adoption recommendations, including regulatory reforms statewide and nationally.

• The percentage of ground-based vehicles operated at LAX and Van Nuys that are zero-emission vehicles, and incentive programs used to phase out emission-generating vehicles, electrification goals and timelines of the programs.

• And plans to electrify parking facilities, including the current percentage of parking spaces that offer electric vehicle charging.

The second motion was co-introduced with Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson and seeks to improve access to the airport for its 50,000 employees. The motion would order reports from LAWA within 120 days on:

• Establishing organizational and transit improvement goals for the recently established Transportation Management Organization at LAX, which ensures that stronger communication and enhanced transportation services are built out over time to reduce private car commuting, traffic and pollution.

• Improving data and meeting employee transit needs, including on a strategy for the Transportation Management Organization office to capture data on employee working hours and commuting patterns and how that data can address gaps in commuter programs or public transport.

• The financial and legal feasibility of creating a LAWA-operated ride share, employee shuttle and FlyAway service to offer free transit for airport-based employees, or transit at reduced cost.

• Strategies to improve the competitiveness of public transit and commuter programs to airport workers.

• And the feasibility of establishing an independent nonprofit to administer an airport area transportation management organization that encompasses employers in Los Angeles, El Segundo and nearby L.A. County unincorporated areas.

The third motion — co-introduced with Council President Nury Martinez, Councilman Kevin de León and Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez — seeks to create an agreement between LAWA and its airport trade and services union with a mutually agreed-upon framework with conditions, commitments, obligations and enforcement provisions. The agreement would enhance worker protections, create better and more affordable transportation options, require the airport to monitor air quality and create a faster transition to zero-emission vehicles to address pollution in the area.

As a nearby resident and worker at LAX, I want to make sure that city leaders work with community members to ensure that this project does not disproportionately affect working families,” said Jovan Houston, an employee at LAX.

For far too long, Black and Brown communities have paid a high toll and our quality of life and health have suffered. We look forward to working with the L.A. City Council to ensure that we protect the health and environment of working-class communities, make public transit safe, affordable and accessible, and guarantee that any jobs that come from this project are good jobs that help all people in Los Angeles thrive.”

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