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Santa Monica City Council Approves Contract to Shorten Municipal Airport Runway


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By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

August 10, 2017 -- The Santa Monica City Council on Tuesday approved a $3.5 million contract to shorten the sole runway at the municipal airport by more than a third, a move meant to drastically cut the rising jet traffic neighbors have long sought to stop.

The contract with AECOM, a California-based company, sets the “guaranteed maximum price” at $3,517,320 (including a 15 percent contingency) to shorten SMO’s runway to 3,500 feet from the current 5,000 feet.

Reducing the length of the runway, officials said, will reduce jet traffic by 44 percent and bring “immediate relief to neighboring residents through reduced noise and pollution.”

The work will be conducted at night "to get the project done expeditiously while limiting impacts to aviation operations,” a statement from the City’s communication s office said.

Construction is set to begin this fall and completed by the end of 2017, officials said.

Reducing the runway was part of the consent decree the City Council voted to approve in late January. The pact with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) closes SMO on December 31, 2028 ("City, FAA Agree to Close Santa Monica Airport in 2028," January 28, 2017).

The agreement is meant to bring closure to the heated battle between the City and the FAA over SMO’s future as an airport. It concludes numerous court cases between the two, allows the City to takeover some vital aircraft-support services, along with reducing the runway ("Santa Monica Airport Agreement Clears Runway of Mounting Litigation Costs," January 31, 2017).

Reaction to the landmark agreement between the City and the FAA is still viewed with skepticism by critics from neighborhoods surrounding SMO. Some say the close date is much too far away. Some are also not satisfied with the way the runway is being reduced.

The aviation community, which views SMO as a traffic reliever for Los Angeles International Airport, is still trying to keep the airport open to aircraft.

Neighbors have fought SMO for decades, but especially since a soaring increase in chartered jet service.

Officials said noise will be “monitored and mitigated” throughout the project, which will include a hard closure of seven to 14 days.

SMO will also be closed often from October through November from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m., Monday through Friday, said Nelson Hernandez, the senior SMO advisor in the Office of City Manager.

Currently, the airport is open 24 hours a day for landings.

All impacted residents, businesses, and aviation tenants will be notified two weeks prior to the start of construction.

The final design is scheduled for completion this month. Site preparation and construction is to start in October and finish in December.

A study cited by the City found shortening the runway will cut use of the SMO by larger aircraft an estimated 44 percent, although the industry contends the move is closer to an outright ban of jets.

A report to the council said the future uses of the demolished portion of the runway is a separate issue, but “staff has begun the process of developing options for removal of excess runway pavement (as the result of the runway shortening)."

Findings will be presented in late September.

Planning and public works staff has started “outlining and will present a framework for a future community process to determine potential uses of the reclaimed land, and the design of that space that are safe and compatible with the operation of the Airport.”


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