August 8, 2008

Rosendahl Pushes for LAX Upgrade Despite Cuts

By Art Marroquin

Even as domestic airlines plan to dramatically cut flights at Los Angeles International Airport this fall, City Councilman Bill Rosendahl said Thursday that he supports efforts to move ahead with a $10 billion plan to upgrade the aging airport over the next decade.

Airport officials are making administrative cuts and plan to impose new fees to pay for construction of additional gates in the back of the Tom Bradley International Terminal, a consolidated car rental office, a people mover and a new airline terminal.

"LAX really is an international gateway, but it doesn't have to look like a Third World shambles of an old airport," Rosendahl told about 50 people gathered for a luncheon hosted by the Los Angeles Current Affairs Forum.

Rosendahl stuck with his mantra that "modernization is the key to regionalism," and said the city will be able to charge higher rents and landing fees to airlines after LAX gets a face-lift. The increased charges at LAX, he believes, will prompt air carriers to shift flights to LA/Ontario International Airport.

"We know the market is there in the Inland Empire," Rosendahl said. "The market will become real in a regional setting after we modernize LAX and pass the cost on to the airlines."

Critics say air carriers would more likely cope with the fee hikes at LAX, or take their business to other large West Coast airports before settling on Ontario.

Rosendahl also said he's concerned about safety on LAX's north airfield as several studies are under way to determine whether the runways should be separated.

Two years ago, aviation consultants suggested moving the northernmost runway about 340 feet north toward the communities of Westchester and Playa del Rey - a plan publicly opposed by Rosendahl and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Although he called the proposal a "dumb idea," Rosendahl moved away from previous statements that the runway would move "over my dead body."

Before considering such a plan, Rosendahl said he wants to install a runway stoplight system by early next year and hire more air traffic controllers. "If moving north is the only option - then we'll take a deep breath and consider it in a serious manner," he said.

The Westside councilman also said he would like to see a portion of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's proposed half-cent sales tax fund the Metro Green Line extension to LAX.

"I don't want to just see the Green Line go to LAX, I want to see it down at Hermosa Beach so folks in the South Bay will use it, too," he said.

In the meantime, Rosendahl said he's working with Los Angeles Public Works Commissioner Valerie Shaw on three bond proposals aimed at fixing the city's infrastructure. The first calls for repairing city streets and could appear on the ballot next year.

"The only way we can get our streets all done in this city is through a series of bond measures," he said.

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