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Santa Monica leaders waste millions of taxpayer dollarsSanta Monica leaders waste millions of taxpayer dollars

Runway project ignores residents, opens door for more developmentRunway project ignores residents, opens door for more development

The city of Santa Monica, California, announced that it will begin work shortening what is arguably the most controversial runway in the country Oct. 9, and conclude by Dec. 30.

California's Santa Monica City Council voted unanimously in May to reduce the municipal airport's runway from nearly 5,000 feet to 3,500 feet. The council chose this option, which centers the new runway on the existing runway.

A notice issued by the city Sept. 22 details the timeline for the city’s project to shorten the embattled municipal airport's lone runway to 3,500 feet, a move authorized by the FAA under terms of an agreement reached in January following years of litigation and persistent efforts by the city to starve the airport out of existence. The two-phase runway project will close the airport nightly from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. between Oct. 9 and Dec. 9, and then for 10 consecutive days beginning Dec. 20; the city said notams will be published in advance of the work.

The city will spend $4 million on the project, with the expectation that the project will reduce jet traffic by 45 percent. It remains unclear if that will reduce the noise that has been among the key complaints driving anti-airport action for decades. The scope of work for the months ahead includes painting chevrons to reduce the usable runway to 3,500 feet, centered on the existing runway, and creating new taxiway connectors. The city will need to complete additional steps including an environmental study before removing paved surfaces beyond the taxiway connectors at the present runway ends.

The seven-member city council has been hostile to the airport for years, ignoring the benefits it provides and taking a variety of actions, regardless of legality, intended to strangle the airport out of existence, including the eviction of aviation tenants and attempts to halt fuel sales. AOPA continues to combat that by raising community awareness of the advantages the airport affords, and support the election of local leaders who will not be beholden to anti-airport activists. Council members serve four-year terms, which means voters will have opportunities to replace anti-airport members before 2028.

“From organ donation transportation to emergency preparedness, the airport is an enormous asset, and over the next 12 years we will ensure everyone knows what they will be giving up if it goes away,” AOPA President Mark Baker said in February.

The FAA surprised many aviation advocates by agreeing to the January deal that requires Santa Monica to operate its municipal airport only through 2028. AOPA has not given up on reversing the actions of local officials who are responding to a vocal group of airport opponents, and the association still hopes to convince the city to keep the airport open long after that. The National Business Aviation Association has meanwhile challenged the agreement between the FAA and the city in federal court, though attorneys representing the organization failed to convince the nation’s second-highest court to halt implementation of the agreement pending the outcome of that case. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit did not rule on the legality of the agreement itself when rejecting the NBAA bid to halt implementation.

AOPA has sought court recognition of third parties including advocates and airport users to enforce the city’s obligations under the agreement should the FAA fail to do so. The association filed a “friend of the court” brief in August asserting that the public has a right to challenge any airport operator that disregards or fails to fulfill its obligations and responsibilities under federal law.

Topics: Airport Advocacy, Economic Impact, Airport

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