Daily Breeze

September 14, 2002

Grant Awarded For Major Southern California Aviation Study

By TOBY ECKERT
Copley News Service

WASHINGTON -- The Southern California Association of Governments has been awarded a $1.5 million federal grant to study the region's aviation needs, including ways to shift some future air traffic growth to airports other than congested Los Angeles International.

The two-year study by the association will try to project aviation demand in a six-county region through 2030. It will include passenger, cargo and general aviation.

""What's unique about this study is there's never been a long-term analysis of (the region's) air space,'' said Jeff Lustgarten a spokesman for the association, a regional planning body.
The region covers Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura and Imperial counties.

The study is expected to play a crucial role in the debate over growth at LAX. Rep. Jane Harman, D-Redondo Beach, who announced the Department of Transportation grant Friday, called it a major boost to a regional aviation plan.

""Limiting growth at LAX can only be achieved by sharing the benefits and burdens of aviation growth with other airports across the region. This grant will allow SCAG to study appropriate regional authorities' best options for implementing a regional strategy,'' said Harman, who supports limiting LAX's capacity to 78 million passengers a year.

The airport handled 61 million passengers in 2001.
Other lawmakers have also jumped into the fray. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Los Angeles, has introduced legislation that would bar the Transportation Department from approving changes to the airport's layout that would boost capacity beyond 78 million passengers. Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn has proposed limiting the airport to that capacity.

""What SCAG is trying to do is build some regional consensus'' about how to handle projected increases in air travel, Lustgarten said.

SCAG adopted a regional strategy last year that relied heavily on expanding operations at Ontario International Airport and construction of a new commercial airport at the former Marine Corps Air Station in El Toro. But that was before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, which caused a drop off in air travel, and the rejection of the El Toro plan by Orange County voters.

The association ""is just beginning the process now of revising its plan,'' Lustgarten said.

The $1.5 million study is expected to take about two years to complete. But SCAG anticipates that preliminary data may be available in the fall of 2003 for use in a draft regional transportation plan.