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Cross-field taxiway OKd for LAX

March 24, 2009|Dan Weikel

Los Angeles airport officials Monday approved construction of a key modernization project at LAX and took steps to shore up the finances of Van Nuys Airport, which has been operating at a deficit for at least a decade.

The Board of Airport Commissioners unanimously awarded an $82-million contract to R&L Brosamer Inc. to build a cross-field taxiway for Los Angeles International Airport that would make it easier for aircraft to move between the north and south runway complexes.

The wider taxiway, which will be located west of the Tom Bradley International Terminal, is designed to handle the next generation of large commercial aircraft, such as the Airbus A-380, the Boeing 747-8 and the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The current cross-field route is so narrow that no other aircraft can use it when an Airbus A380 occupies the taxiway.

"This construction contract is a milestone and one of the first major steps to accommodate new aircraft that are going into service internationally," said Roger Johnson, project manager for Los Angeles World Airports, which operates LAX, Ontario International Airport and Van Nuys Airport, one of the largest general aviation facilities in the world.

The cross-field taxiway, which is scheduled to begin construction in May, is one of several projects in the first phase of the long-awaited LAX modernization plan. The others include reconstructing the airport's central utility plant and substantial improvements to the Bradley terminal, such as additional gates, new concourses and a great central hall filled with restaurants and concessions.

Airport officials estimate the cost of the first round of projects as at least $3.3 billion.

In other action Monday, commissioners unanimously increased the fuel delivery fee from 3 cents to 11 cents a gallon for fuel companies that deliver aviation gas and jet fuel to Van Nuys Airport. It is the first time since 1979 that the fee has been raised.

Although the move could increase fuel costs for aircraft owners, pilots and fuel suppliers at Van Nuys, airport officials said, the increase is necessary to help reduce budget deficits of millions of dollars a year. They estimate that the fee will raise about $1.8 million in additional revenue.

"I'm not going to stop pushing this. There is no reason why Van Nuys should operate at a deficit," said Alan Rothenberg, commission chairman.

Some tenants at the airport disagree with the fee. They contend that the financial picture would improve if the airport were better managed and more effort was made to encourage aviation-related businesses to stay or locate at Van Nuys, which has been in decline for a decade.

"I don't like it. This isn't fair," said Mike Pupich, a longtime Van Nuys tenant who owns a restored B-25 bomber, the Heavenly Body. "If they would just reduce their overhead, they would have money to burn."

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dan.weikel@latimes.com

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