And then, last week, an academic panel working with NASA unloosed a flock of sea gulls into airline regulators' jet engines. After an 18-month study, it found that although moving the runways farther apart would improve safety, the risk reduction would be so minuscule that the project wouldn't be worth the cost.
This comes as an answer to the prayers of the airport's neighbors, who have long fought to block the project out of fear that moving a runway 100 feet or more closer to their homes would harm their quality of life. Prompted by demands from area City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, airport commissioners ordered the NASA study despite the existing, overwhelming evidence. The tactic worked -- the neighbors finally found some experts who agreed with them. That's good enough for Rosendahl and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who say that runway expansion plans are now essentially dead.