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AIRPORT BACKERS LAUNCH COALITION.

Byline: DANA BARTHOLOMEW Staff Writer

VAN NUYS -- Travelers who spend hours tied up in traffic en route to LAX need better runways out of town.

The answer, some say, lies in a Palmdale airport for passengers and cargo that would buttress a Southland economy running short of transit options.

On Friday, proponents launched a regional coalition to support a Palmdale Regional Airport.

``This is about developing a quality of life that is escaping us,'' said state Sen. Richard Alarcon, D-Van Nuys, a leader of the Coalition to Explore the Development of a New Regional Airport in Palmdale.

``This group seeks consensus in investing in a transportation system in Southern California that includes developing a Palmdale Airport.''

The bipartisan coalition, led by Alarcon and state Sen. George Runner, R-Lancaster, will meet four times a year. In addition, four committees will meet monthly to study airport development options.

They say the key to winning support for a Palmdale airport is grass-roots input by residents, airport stakeholders and transit advocates.

And the linchpin to airport success will be a high-speed corridor from Los Angeles to Palmdale to lure passengers and cargo from LAX.

``What will make this airport flourish is a high-speed connection to Los Angeles and a high-speed link to Union Station,'' Palmdale Mayor James C. Ledford told the inaugural coalition meeting in Van Nuys of about 75 prospective members.

``We believe a Palmdale Airport is a great opportunity for this region.''

Regional planners say Los Angeles International Airport, which handles most flights in and out of Southern California, will reach maximum capacity within a decade.

Without adequate airports, the region risks losing 130,000 jobs and $18 billion in economic opportunities, said Mark Pisano, executive director of the Southern California Association of Governments.

``We really are the anchor of the U.S. to the global world,'' he said. ``If we can't provide the gateway of support of both the ports and the airports, the U.S. won't perform effectively in the global marketplace.''

The Palmdale Airport coalition will study the scope of an airport, possible funding sources and how to whisk passengers and cargo in and out of Los Angeles.

Ideas include improved Metrolink service, high-speed rail, or a tunnel through the San Gabriel Mountains.

At the very least, transit advocates said, Metrolink could cut 30 minutes for commuters between Palmdale and Los Angeles by straightening the tracks through twisty Soledad Canyon.

To make a Palmdale airport viable, proponents said it must have San Fernando Valley support.

In the past, said Kymberleigh Richards of the Southern California Transit Advocates, ``People said, That's all well and good for the Antelope Valley, but how do we get there?

``There were coalitions about building an airport, but they left out the transportation component.''

dana.bartholomew@dailynews.com

(818) 713-3730
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Oct 14, 2006
Words:465
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