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Saturday, Sep 23, 2023

Valley Edit

valleyedit/lacter/may/mike1st Hed — Collision Course Burbank Airport is an antiquated, overcrowded facility that’s in desperate need of expansion and renovation. That was true 10 years ago and it’s even more apparent today. The trouble is, it also falls under a Bermuda Triangle of local and federal jurisdiction that includes the cities of Burbank, Glendale and Pasadena, as well as an airport authority and the Federal Aviation Administration. While everyone agrees that something needs to be done to upgrade the facility, there’s little agreement on how much expansion there should be and at what cost. Now, thanks to the continued intransigence by the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority and the City of Burbank, the matter has been handed over to the courts, where it may linger indefinitely. Bottom line: Burbank Airport is unlikely to see any expansion for years, which, practically speaking, is a misplaced victory for the anti-expansionists. A brief recap: The Airport Authority, faced with increasing demand among passengers and airlines alike, wants to build a new terminal with up to 27 gates and eliminate flight curfews and limits to passenger traffic. Burbank officials, concerned that unbridled expansion will lead to even more congestion and possible safety problems, wants the numbers of gates expanded to only 16 plus a 10 percent cap on future flights and a mandatory curfew on flights between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. These differences, on their face, can certainly be resolved. But the conflict goes beyond gates and curfews: It’s power. Burbank officials, citing state law, believe they should have the final say in any expansion that requires non-airport land. (In this case, much of the expansion would be on land now owned by Lockheed Martin Corp.) The Airport Authority, meanwhile, claims that federal laws override state laws on local airport development issues a circumstance that would favor the 27-gate expansion. Just last week, Lockheed entered the fray, proposing a development of its property that would, in essence, thwart the Airport Authority’s expansionist plans. “We want to wrap the terminal with private commercial development so they don’t have the physical ability to expand,” Burbank City Manager Bud Ovrom said. Ovrom and other local officials have expended much of their political careers on the airport saga, so it’s not surprising that their appetite for compromise is limited. But this shouldn’t be about the desires of Ovrom or Burbank Mayor Bill Wiggins or anyone else. This should be about what’s in the best interests of the community (not just Burbank but the wider region that relies so heavily on the airport). That, in our view, means significant airport expansion perhaps not quite on the order of a 27-gate terminal (the airport’s growth estimates over the next few years seem inflated), but certainly more than the 16-gate solution now proposed by the city. Burbank is destined to have a love-hate relationship with its airport and for good reason, given that airports, even under the best of circumstances, are noisy and congested places. But airports also bring important economic benefits to the region. Rather than get tangled up in jurisdictional disputes that might take years to settle, it would be nice to see both sides sit down and cut a deal. Accept the prospect of expansion, split the difference on a number of key points and get on with it.

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