Officials propose to extend rail to serve Ontario airport

By Rick Orlov

STAFF WRITER

In what would be a multibillion-dollar plan to ease congestion at Los Angeles International Airport, city officials proposed Tuesday extending the Gold Line light-rail system to serve LA/Ontario Airport.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, joined by officials from San Bernardino County and Ontario, said he will urge the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and federal officials to consider funding the line's extension from Azusa to the airport to help increase passenger access.

"Right now, Ontario has 7.9million passengers a year," Villaraigosa said at a City Hall news conference. "We hope to see it grow to 30million a year to take some of the traffic from LAX.

"Anyone who has been on the 405Freeway today can tell you that LAX is already at the tipping point," Villaraigosa said. "There is no question that regionalization has to be the answer for Los Angeles and surrounding areas.

"We have to find a way to take passengers from LAX and Ontario has to be a major source of the air traffic from Southern California."

But Ontario Mayor Paul Leon said the plan will have to be accompanied by ways to deal with traffic.

"If we don't plan ahead, we willup with the same problems that exist around LAX," Leon said.

Leon and San Bernardino County Supervisor Gary Ovitt pledged to work with Villaraigosa to lobby for federal funds to help the MTA finance a Gold Line extension.

MTA spokesman Mark Littman said current plans for the Gold Line call for extending it by 22miles to Azusa from Sierra Madre at an estimated price tag of $1.7 billion.

That cost could more than double if the line is extended to Ontario, officials estimate.

Littman said the MTA already has identified some $50 billion in transit improvements needed for the region and has only about $4billion in funds.

"If it was to be extended, we would need to find some other sources of revenue," Littman said.

The city of Los Angeles owns and operates the Ontario facility, and Ontario officials have supported its expansion.

Villaraigosa said the Flyaway shuttle from Union Station to LA/ Ontario Airport already carries 600,000 passengers a year.

Part of the plan is to try to convince the airlines to move more of their service to Ontario from LAX.

Villaraigosa said the city hopes to raise maintenance and landing fees at LAX to serve as an incentive to spur the airlines to move east.

rick.orlov@dailynews.com


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