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Santa Monica Airport Runway Project Set to Begin


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By Jorge Casuso

September 25, 2017 -- City officials announced Friday that construction to shorten the runway at Santa Monica Airport (SMO) will begin in two weeks, with aviation advocates saying they will carefully monitor the nearly three-month project.

The project -- scheduled for October 9 to December 30 -- will shorten the runway from 5,000 feet to 3,500 feet, resulting in a 44 percent reduction in ject traffic, officials said.

The project will improve "the quality of life and air quality of nearby residents and businesses," Nelson Hernandez, the senior advisor to the City manager on airport affairs, wrote in the official notification.

Hernandez called AECOM, which was awarded a $3.5 million contract by the City Council last month, "a highly regarded engineering and construction firm experienced in aviation projects" ("Santa Monica City Council Approves Contract to Shorten Municipal Airport Runway," August 10, 2017).

The Santa Monica Airport Association (SMAA), a plaintiff in legal challenges filed by the aviation industry against the City, quickly issued a statement questioning AECOM's qualifications and vowing to monitor the project.

"AECOM, the construction firm chosen for the work actually has zero experience with runway shortening projects," SMAA wrote in a statement issued Friday. "We’ll be closely observing the quality of their work on this project."

AECOM's website describes the company as "a global provider of technical services to airport owners, investors and aviation clients."

It was recently contracted to design a new airport in Istanbul that has a planned annual capacity of 150 million passengers, according to a press release.

SMAA officials also called Hernandez's claim that the shortened runway will improve the quality of life of nearby residents "highly suspect."

"There is a kindergarten, children’s park and extensive playing fields next to the airport now," SMAA wrote. "Does this mean that City of Santa Monica is deliberately endangering these children, businesses and youths through granting permits now?

"Also, moving the effective runway footprint will change it’s noise characteristics," the association said. "Again, we’ll observe the results."

SMAA also questioned the City's contention that the runway will make take-offs and landings safer, saying that the century old airport is already "a very safe place, one of the safest in the city."

The association is one of a number of aviation groups and airport users who have mounted a legal challenge to the runway shortening and the agreement that City and Federal officials reach in January to close the airport by the end of 2028 (“City, FAA Agree to Close Santa Monica Airport in 2028,” January 28, 2017).


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