An Alaska Airlines jet lands while an Air Canada jet prepares to take off… (Reed Saxon, Associated…)
A controversial proposal to separate the two northern runways at Los Angeles International Airport is strongly supported by likely voters in Los Angeles and the City Council district that contains LAX, according to a new public opinion poll.
The survey released Tuesday by the Coalition to Fix LAX Now, a group of prominent business and labor leaders, indicates that 74% of municipal voters favor separating the runways by 260 feet — a project proponents say would increase safety overall and the efficiency of handling the largest commercial aircraft, such as the giant Airbus A380. The A380 has a wingspan 37 feet wider than a Boeing 747.
Researchers found that support jumped to 86% after voters heard some of the arguments for the project, which is part of a multibillion-dollar effort to modernize the passenger terminals and runway complexes at the nation's third-largest airport.
"The support says it's time to move the northern runways and fix LAX once and for all," said Gary Toebben, president of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce. The results "indicate that this community has waited long enough for improvements."
The survey also found that 87% of city voters favored providing light-rail service to the airport and preferred by a 10-1 margin mayoral or council candidates who support separating the runways.
Goodwin Simon Strategic Research in Culver City conducted the survey, which interviewed 3,151 likely voters in all 15 Los Angeles City Council districts. The sample breaks down to about 200 voters per district, except for 300 in Council District 11, where the airport is located. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.26 percentage points.
The poll is a measure of support for the proposal in Los Angeles. It did not consider voters in nearby El Segundo, Culver City, Inglewood or other cities where there has been strong opposition to LAX projects over the years that threatened to increase the airport's footprint.
Last month, airport staff recommended to the city's Board of Airport Commissioners that the runway proposal be selected as the preferred alternative for further environmental study. Commissioners have yet to vote on the recommendation.
Airport activists and neighborhood groups in communities surrounding LAX are worried that the project will contribute to airport expansion and increase noise, air pollution and traffic congestion. They say the proposal has marginal safety benefits and, based on airport studies, would do little to improve efficiency.
The poll found, however, that 74% of voters in West Los Angeles' Council District 11 favored the runway project after hearing opponents' views; 77% supported the proposal after hearing the arguments for it.
Denny Schneider of A Regional Solution to Airport Congestion, an opposition group based in the Westchester neighborhood along the airport's north side, questioned the credibility of the findings and the need for the project.
"Give me a position and I will get a pollster who will give me the answers I'm seeking," Schneider said. "The proposal is unnecessary, will cost billions, use up scarce resources and have consequences during construction that will hurt everyone in the region."
Schneider said opponents will ask candidates in the upcoming mayoral election to pledge that they will oppose airport expansion and support spreading the growth in commercial air traffic to other regional airports to prevent congestion at LAX.