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DEAL CLEARS PATH TO LAX PROJECT COUNCIL SIGNS AGREEMENT WITH CITIES, COUNTY.

Byline: Rick Orlov Staff Writer

Clearing the way for a massive $4 billion modernization project at Los Angeles International Airport, the Los Angeles City Council signed off Wednesday on an agreement that ends the threat of lawsuits by neighboring cities.

The council voted 11-0 after a closed-door session to ratify the agreement, hammered out by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, council members and officials from Los Angeles County, the cities of El Segundo, Inglewood and Culver City, and the grass-roots Alliance for a Regional Solution to Airport Congestion that has been fighting all LAX plans.

While final approval from the Federal Aviation Administration still is needed to make federal funds available, the agency already has indicated its support.

``I think we have shown the world that we have our act together,'' said Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who represents the airport area. ``This is a significant step in making us a better neighbor and in improving the airport to make it safer and more friendly to passengers.''

The agreement puts into motion several immediate projects designed to improve safety at the airport, most notably a $241 million project by Sylmar-based firm Tutor-Saliba to move and widen the south runway.

The deal also allows work to proceed on projects that had been designated as ``green light'' projects - those on which all parties agreed - as well as pay for sound mitigation of nearby homes and businesses and a community benefits program that will also provide jobs to people living in the area.

Among other projects that will proceed are improvements to the Tom Bradley International Terminal, development of a new luggage system, expansion of FlyAway services around the county, development of a western concourse and a separate rental-car facility.

A working group of officials will also be formed to develop plans to increase use of the Ontario and Palmdale airports, including transportation improvements.

A key feature of the settlement will limit the number of annual passengers to 79.5 million by gradually reducing the number of gates at LAX from 163 to 153.

The settlement also sets the stage for elimination of some of the more controversial aspects of the last modernization plan, including a ground transportation center at Manchester Square, development of a people mover system and razing Terminals 1, 2 and 3.

LAX plans have been in the working stage since 1993, when then-Mayor Richard Riordan first proposed a major expansion to accommodate 100 million passengers a year.

After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, former Mayor James Hahn changed the thrust of the plans to emphasize security and agreed to scale back passenger limits at the facility.

But Hahn's efforts were stymied by various lawsuits.

After Villaraigosa was elected - partly on a platform of opposing Hahn's plans for the facility - he was able to negotiate the settlement.

Villaraigosa on Wednesday hailed the council's approval.

``This is a rational, community-sensitive plan that will allow for sensible improvements to be made to LAX - improvements that will benefit the people of Los Angeles and the millions of world travelers who depend on this airport,'' Villaraigosa said.

El Segundo Mayor Kelly McDowell also offered praise.

``El Segundo was one of the first to raise concerns about this plan,'' McDowell said, crediting the work of former Democratic Assemblyman Mike Gordon, who organized the initial campaign against the airport plan. Gordon died last year of cancer.

``It is gratifying to get to this point,'' McDowell said. ``But what is most important - outside the four corners of this agreement - is that we have developed a partnership. That might be as much benefit as the settlement itself.''

Rick Orlov, (213) 978-0390

rick.orlov(at)dailynews.com
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jan 19, 2006
Words:605
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