Input sought on growth of LA/ONT airport

ONTARIO - If an airport in your town were going to make plans that would double its passenger traffic and triple air cargo flights over the next 20 years, what issues would you want raised?

That's the question posed to Ontario residents as a new proposed master plan guiding the expansion of LA/Ontario International Airport through 2030 is unveiled.

Los Angeles World Airports, which owns the airport, said it will welcome input on potential conflicts and suggested alternatives to a proposed new Airport Master Plan from the community until Sept. 24.

Two meetings were held last week at LA/ONT to assess public concerns and ideas for the master plan and its pending environmental impact report.

Multiple government agencies, including the cities of Ontario and Chino, as well as private entities attended to make their interests known.

However, of the about 1,000 notices sent to potentially impacted residents and interested parties, only about a half dozen Ontario citizens showed.

The master plan envisions LA/ONT in 2030 with five passenger terminals, an automated people mover, and much more consolidated cargo space, among other things.

The two runways will move south and east, which shifts the airfields in those directions and calls for the acquisition of 35 acres south of the airport.

Michael Armstrong, SCAG aviation program manager, said the expansion would ease the burden of LAX, which served 61 million passengers in 2006 but has a cap of 78.9 million annually due to a settlement agreement with the community.

"Ontario served about 7 million passengers in 2006 and has the capacity to serve about 30 (million) with its two runways," Armstrong said.

"The challenge is to improve access to Ontario - particularly from Orange County - to help it get to its 30 million sooner, so there's more immediate relief for LAX."

Paula McHargue, LAWA project manager, said some likely impacts of the expansion of the airport include traffic and circulation, air quality, land use and noise concerns.

While Los Angeles controls LA/ONT, Ontario still has jurisdiction over all the infrastructure around it, and officials say the city will be prepared.

"Anything that has to do with traffic, noise or transportation mitigation has to be in place," Mayor Paul Leon said. "We will manage the growth, and it will not happen faster than ground access is available."

City Manager Greg Devereaux said the city has been kept in the loop as plans for the airport develop.

"We're certainly interested in things like the locations of the runways, whether they are being extended, parking structures ... and how it all impacts traffic flow and noise," Devereaux said.

"We're looking at what infrastructure is needed to support it as it grows," he said.

McHargue said the bigger airport will provide Ontario with more services and jobs at and around the airport.

But for residents living nearby, it could also mean more aircraft noise, a higher level of emissions in the air, and increased traffic.

McHargue said traffic mitigation will be studied with great attention in the environmental impact report.

"Noise and air quality are very important issues out here," McHargue said. "But what the agency has asked us to focus on in the past is traffic impacts, what the airport would be contributing, and looking at roadway access to the airport."

The new Airport Master Plan proposes transportation improvements, such as a people mover and better roadway access to LA/ONT, McHargue said.

And regional plans being bounced around might also alleviate some of the traffic.

Armstrong said potential projects include access to a Metrolink line, the extension of the Gold Line through the San Gabriel Valley to Ontario, and a high-speed rail connection from LAX to LA/ONT.

Public comments and ideas to be considered in the report must be sent to LAWA by Sept. 24.

The next chance for community input will be in about 12 months, when the draft EIR is expected to be filed.