An ambitious modernization plan at Los Angeles International Airport took another major step forward on Friday with officials releasing a final environmental impact report.
The nearly 2,000 page report focuses on two sets of plans favored by LAX executives - one to separate two runways on the north side of the field by 260 feet and another to improve ground facilities by constructing a consolidated rental car facility and building a people mover that would shuttle passengers around the airport. Plans also call, eventually, for a Metro station on or near the airport, and at least one new terminal.
For the projects to go forward, state law requires officials to assess their environmental impacts.
Los Angeles World Airports officials say the final draft is similar to an earlier one released in July. But at that point, airport staff had not issued their recommendations of which modernization plans they preferred. At the time, they had been considering plans to separate the runways by as little as 100 feet and as much as 350 feet. (Airport officials say moving the runways apart would limit dangerous so-called runway incursions between airplanes on the ground, though many nearby residents, concerned that landing will take place even closer to homes and businesses, say the project is not necessary).
Residents may comment on the modernization plans on Jan. 31 at 9:30 a.m. during a special meeting of the Board of Airport Commissioners.
The environmental impact report includes details ranging from how the airport will protect the habitats of the Western Burrowing Owl, to how it will limit construction disruption to how it will mitigate the affects of new noise patterns on nearby neighborhoods.
"We are glad that we have this information out there for the public and for our decision makers so they can make some good decisions about the future of the airport and the neighborhood community," said Diego Alvarez, LAX's program director for the modernization efforts.
Denny Schneider, president of the Alliance for a Regional Solution to Airport Congestion, a group opposed to plans to separate the two runways, said the airport should have given residents more than six days to read the report before the public meeting.
"This is typical of LAWA," he said. "They throw it over the fence and let us worry about it. At least they didn't pick a holiday weekend, which is what they've done in the past."
The impact report process requires airport officials to respond to questions and comments residents made in response to the earlier draft. Residents inquired about issues as varied as whether the airport might add additional left-turn capacity to a nearby roadway, to whether the airport was following stipulations it agreed to in 2006 when it settled a lawsuit brought by the city of El Segundo. (As part of that settlement, the airport was able to reconfigure runways on the south side of the airfield).
But Schneider said some of the answers to the questions and comments appeared perfunctory.
"It is clear they did not give us comprehensive answers at all," he said. "What they have done again and again is written generic answers."
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