Saturday, April 4, 2009

Long Beach Airport improvements may not pan out as envisioned

Officials, under pressure from JetBlue, say money is a factor in planning.
By Paul Eakins, Staff Writer

LONG BEACH — Improvements at the Long Beach Airport could be scaled down or may be just done in phases, but they aren't going to be exactly what has been previously discussed, city officials said this week.

Following news Wednesday that JetBlue isn't happy with the lack of progress on the airport expansion, city officials revealed the facility may not even grow as much as planned.

Officials at JetBlue, which is the largest flight provider at the airport with 29 of 41 daily departure slots, have said they can't rule out leaving the airport altogether.

The City Council had certified an environmental impact report that allows the airport terminal to grow from 56,320 square feet to 89,995 square feet, but airport officials said they've been discussing scaling it down with the airlines. Efforts to improve the airport began in 2002 but have been stymied by public opposition, lawsuits and other challenges.

Council members Val Lerch, Dee Andrews and Gary DeLong have asked city staff for an update on the airport improvements at Tuesday's 5 p.m. council meeting in City Hall.

So, how big — or small — might the terminal improvements be?

"We don't know the exact size," airport spokeswoman Sharon Diggs-Jackson said. "The discussions are ongoing."

Christine Edwards, the Airport Operations Bureau manager, said characterizing the new airport plan as smaller is "premature." She said it may ultimately be completed in phases, rather than all at once. The chief concern, she said, is cost.

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