Mineta Announces Grants for LAX Runway Project, Soundproofing

LAX will receive two federal grants totaling $56.5 million to help relocate the south runway and soundproof homes in Lennox, El Segundo and Inglewood, U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta said today.

Mineta visited a Westchester home this morning that had recently been soundproofed and said the project would "give families a break from noise and a better quality of life."

The Federal Aviation Administration will provide the grants, including $27 million for soundproofing and $29.5 million for the south runway project at Los Angeles International Airport.

The city recently awarded a $241 million contract to shift the southern runway at LAX 55 feet to the south so a new center taxiway can be built. The project will also shore up the tunnel under the runways so the new Airbus A- 380 can land on them.

"LAX is a symbol of life on the West Coast, but we know that life brings changes," Mineta said.

The A-380 -- which holds between 555 and 853 passengers, weighs 562 tons and has a wingspan of more than 261 feet -- will make its debut next year.

The $29.5 million grant announced today for the south runway project brings the FAA's total contribution to the effort to $68.3 million. The agency had earlier given the city a $38.8 million grant.

Lydia Kennard, executive director of Los Angeles World Airports, the agency that oversees LAX, said the funding would help the airport prepare for the A- 380. But she said the runway project is more about safety than increased airport capacity.

Airport officials said there were eight "incursions," or near-misses, between aircraft at LAX last year, and seven in 2004.

LAWA has worked to educate air traffic controllers and chief pilots on the safety concerns surrounding LAX runways, said Michael DiGirolamo, deputy executive director of LAWA.

"We sent out a map every time we had an incursion that shows where the incursion is," DiGirolamo said.

Cameras were also installed in traffic towers so controllers can see blind spots along the runways.

"Fixing the runway will make this a safer airport," Mineta said. "And that gives us all reason to be more confident in the safety of flights in and out of Los Angeles."

It was 15 years ago yesterday that 35 people were killed when a USAir jet was cleared to land on a runway where a commuter plane was waiting to take off.

Because of safety improvements "that won't happen again," DiGirolamo said.

Construction on the airfield will begin later this summer and is scheduled for completion in March 2007.

The soundproofing grant is expected to fund work at 500 homes in Lennox, El Segundo and Inglewood, officials said. The work will include adding double- paned windows, heavier doors and better attic insulation.

Airport officials said the soundproofing project, which began in 1997, will make improvements to 8,000 homes by mid-2008.

Homeowner Bill West, 58, bought his Westchester home two years ago and had to wait almost that long before his house was outfitted with new windows and doors.

The improvements, which have reduced noise in West's house by 80 percent, cost between $25,000 and $35,000.

"By the work, I can see that that's been spent," West said. "It's added value to the home."

After a tour, Mineta said West's house was an example of what officials can do to improve communities surrounding airports.

"Great -- just the thing we want to do to make sure airports are good neighbors," Mineta said.

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