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Officials say LAX upgrade on track

August 07, 2008|Dan Weikel | Times Staff Writer

Despite a severe economic downturn in the airline industry, airport officials assured Los Angeles City Council members Wednesday that a multibillion-dollar plan to modernize Los Angeles International Airport will proceed, at least for the short term.

"We will be able to go forward. This won't slow us down for five years or so," Gina Marie Lindsey, executive director of Los Angeles World Airports, told members of a council panel that oversees LAX, LA/Ontario International Airport, Van Nuys Airport and Palmdale Regional Airport.

But Lindsey warned that there was "a practical limit" to what the airlines would pay for improvements in the current economic climate and that new projects should be vetted to make sure their costs are reasonable and will not raise operating expenses at LAX.

The Trade, Commerce and Tourism Committee invited Lindsey and other airport officials to its meeting Wednesday to address the sharp declines in flights projected for LAX and Ontario this fall and their potential effects on planned improvements at LAX.

To compensate for potential losses in airport revenue, the city's airport commission -- the policymaking board of Los Angeles World Airports -- increased landing fees at LAX and Ontario last month. The airport agency raises money for projects from airline fees, terminal leases, parking and concessions and other sources.

Lindsey also said the airport agency is trying to cut operating costs by reducing staff and eliminating services that don't pay for themselves.

She said that within the next five years the airport should be able to finish improvements to Tom Bradley International Terminal, including a widened taxiway and new gates on the west side that can accommodate the next generation of large aircraft. She said LAX's central utility plant would probably be replaced and terminal escalators and elevators rebuilt.

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dan.weikel@latimes.com

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