Proposals to Ease Gridlock at LAX to Be Unveiled

Officials will outline options for improving traffic flow, a key element in updating the airport's design.

In a proposal that would dramatically alter the main roadway to Los Angeles International Airport, city officials are considering double-decking Century Boulevard to relieve gridlock that chokes city streets around the world's fifth-busiest airport.

Building an elevated six-lane concrete roadway over Century -- similar to the raised carpool lanes on the Harbor Freeway south of downtown -- is one of eight alternatives that officials will unveil tonight to reduce congestion around LAX.

The proposals, which also include adding two under-runway tunnels on Sepulveda Boulevard, were devised over the last several months by airport-area residents and the city agency that operates LAX.

It's likely that a combination of the eight traffic options will be included in a modernization plan for the airport being developed by representatives from the city's airport agency, the cities of El Segundo, Inglewood and Culver City, community groups and Los Angeles County. Officials expect to release the plan this winter.

"No decisions have been made at this point," said Lydia Kennard, executive director of the airport agency, Los Angeles World Airports. "But now we're coming into some tough issues and some tough discussions."

In addition to double-decking Century Boulevard, which is lined with hotels and other airport-related businesses, alternatives include providing direct airport access from the 405 Freeway several blocks to the east and extending the Metro Rail Green Line.

Such measures to move traffic more efficiently into and out of LAX are just part of a plan being crafted to fix the city's 77-year-old airport. The blueprint would replace former Mayor James K. Hahn's controversial $11-billion modernization proposal.

City officials agreed to shelve Hahn's proposal and start over in exchange for a promise by airport-area communities to drop federal and state lawsuits that challenged his plan.

Despite the community input into the proposal being developed under Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, there already is concern about it in communities around LAX.

"LAX strikes again with plans to move the airport closer to homes in Westchester/Playa del Rey. The airport has some new ideas that look a lot like expansion," read a postcard sent by the Alliance for a Regional Solution to Airport Congestion to residents urging them to attend tonight's meeting at LAX, scheduled for 6 p.m. at the Flight Path Learning Center, 6661 W. Imperial Highway.

The new traffic measures mark the third time in 12 years that officials have tried to devise a politically palatable proposal to redo LAX.

The cost so far: more than $150 million.

Hahn eliminated Mayor Richard Riordan's controversial plan to expand the airport to handle 89 million annual passengers when he introduced a proposal that would require most passengers to check in at a facility in a neighborhood near the San Diego Freeway. The airport currently handles about 61.5 million passengers a year.

From the start, critics said Hahn didn't include them in the planning process, and security experts said passengers who used the remote check-in center were vulnerable to attacks by bombs in luggage and vehicles.

The city's agreement with communities around LAX allows city officials to keep parts of Hahn's plan that residents liked, such as a consolidated rental car center in parking Lot C and a new terminal that would be constructed near the sand dunes on the airport's western edge.

It also requires them to restudy controversial elements such as the remote check-in center. In the new plan, officials must find a way to spread out 60% of the vehicle traffic that would have been absorbed by this facility. That's where the new traffic proposals come in.

Planners say they have two choices: They can bring a majority of vehicles directly into the airport off the 405 Freeway or they can route people around the airport using the 105 Freeway and bring them into LAX from the south.The eight possibilities are:

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