LAWA has not taken substantive steps to fulfill its commitments to reduce environmental impacts near Los Angeles International Airport by encouraging passenger and cargo expansion at L.A./Ontario International and L.A./Palmdale Regional airports.
The requirement was part of a 2006 court settlement over expansion plans at LAX.
The blame for this oversight falls at the feet of Los Angeles, which has failed to act in the best interests of travelers, a spokesman for Supervisor Mike Antonovich said.
"LAWA has done nothing to regionalize air traffic. Not only have they done nothing to regionalize traffic, they have been detrimental to Ontario and Palmdale airports," said Lori Glasgow, airport deputy for Antonovich's office.
"They are choking it off by not investing to make it commercially successful."
LAWA is the airport oversight and operations department for Los Angeles.
William Fujioka, the county's chief executive officer, outlined his concerns over the lack of the redistribution of air traffic in a letter sent to LAWA in October in response to an environmental report for the airport's specific plan.
Fujioka said the agency failed to form a working group made up of local government agencies to work on redistribution plans.
Minimal efforts were also made to implement the Regional Strategic Planning Initiative, which aimed to improve cargo and air traffic at ONT and Palmdale airports.
"Despite the significant mitigation potential associated with regionalization, LAWA has made only token efforts to fulfill the regionalization efforts required in the settlement," Fujioka wrote in his comments to the airports' environmental impact report.
The airport's specific plan amendment study will be the subject of a contentious vote expected today by the agency's governing body.
The Los Angeles Board of Airport Commissioners will vote on whether to move forward on a series of ambitious modernization projects for Los Angeles International Airport.
The biggest issue involves a plan, favored by airport executives, to increase the distance between two runways on the airport's north side by 260 feet. Airport officials said the change is vital for safety and efficiency reasons, but many nearby residents said it is unnecessary and will lead to more noise and pollution in their neighborhoods. If approved, the plan would move to the Los Angeles City Council for a vote.
LAWA officials have defended their effort to regionalize the air traffic.
"LAWA is committed to regionalization. LAX's current modernization plans do take regionalization into account," LAWA spokeswoman Nancy Castles said.
"All of the options included in the specific plan amendment study apply the practical capacity of 78.9 million annual passengers (at LAX). But we aren't there yet; we aren't even close."
In 2012, LAX served 63.7 million passengers.
None of the specific plan amendment study proposals being considered, including movement of the north airfield, should be considered as an expansion, Castles said. The movement takes place within the boundary of the airport and does not require the removal of homes or businesses, she said.
"We continue to work toward regionalization, but we can't force passengers and airlines to choose one airport over another," Castles said.
LAWA has made "extraordinary" efforts to reduce operating costs at ONT, she said. It froze the landing fee rate, used reserve funds to reduce the terminal rental rate by more than $12 per square foot, reduced utility uses, and consolidated and redeployed its staff, she said.
The downturn at ONT started after 2007 when travel peaked at 7.2million annual passenger traffic.
The decline, which was seen at many airports across the nation, was a result of the recession. Airlines started to shift the way they did business, which included reducing flights at airports on ONT's size.
Ontario International suffered a double-digit drop in passenger traffic and the exodus of several low-cost carriers. In 2012, 4.3 million passengers traveled in and out of the airport.
"We have done what we can to incentivize increased use of L.A./Ontario International and Palmdale Regional airports. As an example, LAWA attends key airline industry events annually to meet with carriers one-on-one and understand growth plans and how ONT fits into those plans," Castles said.
Since 2007, LAWA has had nearly 170 meetings with U.S. and international carriers to discuss opportunities for ONT, she said.
But, Glasgow said, LAWA is "only focused on expanding their existing runway and really neglecting the airports."
Antonovich has long supported efforts to redistribute air traffic in the region as well as a multimodal transportation system that connects light rail as well as Metrolink to Palmdale and Ontario airports, said Tony Bell, assistant chief deputy for Antonovich.
"None of this is happening and one big part of that is LAWA has not made it a reality," Bell said.
For example, rather than connect the Metro Green Line to LAX, it stops short, a move Bell said was motivated by LAWA's desire not to affect its parking revenue.
Redistributing air traffic to other regional airports takes the pressure off an overburdened LAX and it gives neighboring communities more options for travel, Bell said.
LAWA needs to show it supports a regional program to reduce congestion by using all five of the region's airports, he said.
Antonovich's plan to redistribute air traffic also included taking cargo out of LAX and moving it solely to Palmdale. The move would take truck trailers out of an already congested Southern California freeways.
But, Castles said, in 2007, LAWA worked with the U.S. Department of Transportation and the city of Palmdale to subsidize United Express air service from Palmdale to San Francisco.
The commercial service was hardly used, and the subsidy ended up costing $238 per passenger.
Despite the subsidy, United canceled the flight after 18 months.
On Monday, the board of the Ontario International Airport Authority - which would oversee the airport if control was transferred - discussed how lopsided air traffic has disrupted service at ONT.
As airports began to see a recovery in 2008, ONT continued to decline, but rather than providing incentives to bring back traffic to the airport, Ontario Councilman Alan Wapner said LAWA did the opposite.
"Once the recession hit, and they realized they need to grow internally, there was a huge philosophical shift for L.A. They stopped supporting Ontario," Wapner said.
"They did all they could to pull traffic from Ontario."
Reach Liset via email, call her at 909-483-8556, or find her on Twitter @DBOntarioNow.