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Q & A : Galanter Wants LAX to Fly Right

February 16, 1992|Jeffrey L. Rabin | Times Staff Writer

Ruth Galanter, Los Angeles City Councilwoman.

Claim to Fame: In her second term on the council, representing a district stretching from Venice south to Los Angeles International Airport and inland as far as Crenshaw area.

Background: Since her election in 1987, she has clashed repeatedly with LAX officials over plans to expand the airport and increase the number of passengers served. She has warned of possible safety and environmental consequences of such growth, including gridlock on already congested streets and increased aircraft noise.

Q: LAX is one of the world's biggest airports. It is an enormous employment center, and it's absolutely vital to the L.A. economy. But for the past 4 1/2 years you've been doing battle with the airport. Do you believe it is a bad neighbor?

A: It could be a lot better neighbor. Most of my battles with the airport have been with the plans for future growth. The existing airport has pretty much hit its limit. I don't think there's room in the air for the planes, and I certainly don't think there is room on the ground to bring the people and cargo in and out that they are talking about adding to the existing load. So, I've been pushing them to think ahead and get prepared to absorb all that projected growth (at a new regional airport) in Palmdale or elsewhere.

Q: Are you saying that the current level of 45 million passengers a year is LAX's limit?

A: I cannot get a clear answer as to the limits of safety. Remember, we had a crash a year ago. Following that crash, we asked the airport operations people and some of the emergency response people a lot of questions. The only answer I could get to the question of how many more flights we can take was, "That's the FAA's department." I said, "Fine, let's ask the FAA." Well, the Federal Aviation Administration won't give us an answer. I'm not sure they know the answer. The fact that nobody is willing to say it is safe makes me very nervous.

Q: I gather you also think LAX has reached its capacity on the ground?

A: Absolutely. The airport owns up to being responsible for about 25% of the traffic on the Westside. If they try to build out the airport to 65 million or more annual passengers, the only way you will get in is to walk in with your luggage on your head. There simply is not room on the streets. The standard approach to the problem when there isn't room on the streets is: We'll widen the streets. When you widen the streets, you take something out. What do you take out? Neighborhoods. You don't need to do that.

Q: But the airport has plans for additional terminals, air cargo space and other facilities. Are you saying that its physical growth should be constrained?

A: It doesn't make any difference how many terminals you have, or how big they are, if you can't get the planes in and out, and you can't get the traffic in and out. The airport doesn't operate, no matter how nice the buildings are. All this planning effort that's going into putting more terminals and more facilities at LAX is essentially wasted. That same effort spent on Palmdale would be productive.

Q: Some have looked to mass transit--light rail--as a way to relieve traffic congestion. But with the controversy surrounding the Metro Green Line and what has happened with the Sumitomo contract, isn't a rapid transit connection to the airport even more distant than it had been?

A: I hope not. But remember that the Green Line wasn't going to go to the airport anyway. There are a great many things wrong with it before you even get to the question of who will build the cars. First of all, it doesn't go where it most needs to go.

Q: Because it goes only to El Segundo on the south side of the airport?

A: The technology that they were proposing to buy is not maneuverable enough to be able to go into the airport, no matter who builds it. They can't make the turns. Three to four years ago, we had an understanding with both the county Transportation Commission and the Department of Airports that the rail line would go to LAX Parking Lot C. Well, you'll notice the Green Line doesn't go there. Only six or eight months ago did the commission bother to find out that the technology they have proposed can't go where they were going to have it go.

Q: The overhead electric wire posed problems?

A: The wire above the train is too high, and the whole thing is in the clear zone (at the end of the runways), where you're not supposed to build anything.

Q: So at this point there is no rapid transit link on the drawing board to serve the terminals or the parking lots?

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