January 23, 2001 - From the January, 2001 issue

The Long-Awaited, Newest LAX Master Plan: Will Expansion Balance Local & Regional Needs?

The colossal planning process for expanding the region's largest international airport moved one step closer to fruition recently when Mayor Riordan and Los Angeles World Airports officials released a Draft EIR/EIS—including a staff-recommended Draft LAX Master Plan designating the "No Additional Runway" option as the preferred alternative—to guide the next 15 years of development. So how will the airport grow? And on what assumptions do the documents rely? For one, the plan assumes the LAX share of regional passenger service will drop from 75 percent to less than 60 percent, as other airports take on increasing flight loads. The draft also accommodates 90 percent of passenger demand and 100 percent of air cargo demand projected for LAX by 2015, while only increasing average daily flights by 4 percent. Other highlights include: a significant reduction in the peak-hour traffic gridlock in the Central Terminal Area and vastly improved traveler convenience; a proactive environmental justice program to be developed in close collaboration with the low-income and communities of color surrounding the airport. MIR is pleased to present the following excerpt of the draft plan's Executive Summary.

November 7, 2000
Prepared for: Los Angeles World Airports
By: Landrum & Brown

Executive Summary

To ensure that Los Angeles' air transportation infrastructure continues to facilitate the region's economic needs over the next 15 years, Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) is developing a new long-range strategic master plan; such a plan has not been updated since 1981. The last major improvements at LAX were completed prior to the 1984 Olympics when LAX served about 33 million annual passengers (MAP). These improvements included terminal expansion, roadway, and parking improvement projects. Today LAX is at 65 MAP and growing. The proposed LAX Master Plan is a modernization plan that accounts for the growth of the airport since 1984 and provides for updating the facilities at LAX through 2015.

Guiding Principles, Goals & Objectives

The following principles have guided and will continue to guide the work of the planners formulating the proposed LAX Master Plan:

• Help our five-county region meet the ever-increasing demand for safe and efficient air service by ensuring that LAX is prepared to handle its appropriate share of that demand, and by ensuring that the region continues to have an optimum international gateway.

• Balance LAX modernization plans with local community concerns. In particular, modernization should endeavor to reduce surface street and freeway congestion in the airport vicinity, as well as other potential environmental impacts such as aircraft noise.

• Enhance the margin of safety for the LAX airfield and its flight paths, while preparing the airfield and terminals to efficiently handle the world's new generation of high capacity passenger and cargo aircraft.

• Improve conditions for travelers by relieving traffic congestion on and off the airport, and reducing flight delays by enhancing the operational efficiency of the LAX airfield and flight paths.

• Maximize the value of the public investment that the City of Los Angeles, travelers and travel providers have made in creating the facilities at LAX over the last 70 years.


Early in the planning process, LAWA and a Master Plan Interdepartmental Technical Advisory Task Force adopted Master Plan Goals and Objectives. The Task Force members included LAWA, Department of City Planning, Department of Transportation, Fire Department, Bureau of Engineering, Environmental Affairs Department, Chief Legislative Analyst, City Administrative Officer, Council District Six, and the Mayor's Office. Seven goals were identified that are critical to ensure that the airport design concepts properly focus on the needs of the local community and the region:

• Continue to satisfy regional demands for global air transport of passengers and cargo by adding new and optimizing existing facilities at LAX, along with distributing commercial service not essential to the LAX international gateway role to other airports in the region.

• Ensure the safety of all airport users.

• Operate efficiently to continue major direct/indirect economic benefit to local, regional, and State environments.

• Operate LAX in an environmentally sensitive, responsible manner.

• Through enhanced urban design, maximize compatibility between LAX and the demand for housing, employment and service, and protect surrounding neighborhoods.

• Improve ground access to LAX by maximizing the use of regional highway and transit networks and mitigate neighborhood traffic impacts.

• Achieve a balance between increased LAX operations and environmental, social, land use, ground access, economic and air commerce impacts.

It is the intention of LAWA to provide additional airport capacity for passengers and freight that will sustain and advance the economic growth and vitality of the South Coast Basin in an environmentally sound manner, compatible with surrounding land uses. A set of specific planning objectives were also developed early in the process to guide the design of the airside, terminal, cargo, ground access, land use, and environmental components of the LAX Master Plan concepts. These objectives address the primary issues discussed in Chapter II, Existing Conditions, and Chapter V, Concept Development.

Planning Objectives

The planning objectives for each functional area in the Master Plan design concept analysis follow. These objectives were used as a general guide in developing the design concepts.


• Two runways at 12,000 feet (one each on the north and south complexes).

• Minimum of FAA Group V aircraft design standards (Boeing 747 or equivalent aircraft) on all facilities.

• Capability to accommodate limited new larger aircraft to be considered.

• Adequate queuing space at departure ends of runways.

• All departure runways reasonably accessible from all terminal gates.

• Runway orientation to avoid noise impacts as much as possible.

Terminal Area:

• Adequate terminal area in balance with airside capacity.

• Improved connections to the runway and ground access systems.

• Maximize use of existing terminal facilities.

Cargo Area:

• Adequate cargo areas to accommodate forecast demand.

• Proximity to terminal area to provide convenient access for air cargo.

• Truck access optimized from cargo area to local and regional roadway system.

Ground Access:

• Direct connections to the regional access system.

• Mitigate local roadway system impacts.

• Investigate connections to the regional transit system.

• Protect neighborhoods.


Urban Design / Land-Use:

• Minimize and mitigate impacts to surrounding land uses.

• Maximize public benefit to adjacent land uses.

Environmental Considerations:

• Minimize impacts to the dunes and the El Segundo Blue Butterfly preserve.

• Minimize aircraft noise impacts through runway orientation/use patterns.

• Maximize use of clean fuel vehicles to reduce emissions.

The Future Of The Regional Air Transportation System

Passenger demand for the next 15 to 20 years in the region will increase the most in the fringe areas, particularly eastern and southern counties. While Los Angeles County population will increase by about one-third, the population in San Bernardino and Riverside Counties will double. Los Angeles County will nonetheless remain the most populous area in the region with a population about four times that of San Bernardino and Riverside counties.

LAX will also remain the region's primary airport. Although the overall share of regional demand at LAX will decline, the total demand will continue to increase at LAX.

The region must act now if it wishes to be ready to meet the region's future air transportation needs. It takes a minimum of eight years, on average, to plan, approve and construct new aviation facilities.

For the foreseeable future, LAX is the only airport capable of being the region's international gateway. Airlines, cargo-dependent businesses and government have made billions of dollars in infrastructure investments at LAX, a scale that would be nearly impossible to duplicate elsewhere in the region within 15 years. Only one other airport in the region has the capability of becoming a major international airport. If approved, the controversial conversion of the Marine Corps Air Station El Toro to civilian use will have a large enough passenger base within its catchment area to attract international service. The El Toro Master Plan anticipates only a small fraction of the connecting flights crucial for functioning as an international gateway airport.

The international function is crucial because other U.S. regions are now competing strongly for international gateway business that currently comes through LAX. Several other metropolitan regions have built up their airports to provide international gateway service. Major domestic hubs such as Chicago and Dallas have the critical mass of flights needed to support international gateway service.

Concept Development

Once shortcomings are identified and facility requirements defined, the concept development analysis phase begins. The purpose of concept development in the master planning process is to develop ideas for providing facilities that meet forecast demand through 2015.

Concept development for the LAX Master Plan was a multi-phase, iterative analysis in which concepts were repeatedly tested and then either rejected or refined. The process involved policy decisions and design tradeoffs that spanned five years and included dozens of options in order to achieve the best balance possible to serve the airport needs of the region and those of the differing stakeholders. As the process has progressed, agency and public meetings and workshops have been held to inform all concerned and garner support for the process.

After this considerable analysis and evaluation, LAX has arrived at three development alternatives that meet the airport's goals and objectives. To arrive at these final alternatives, and to select from these a preferred alternative, the LAX Master Plan has gone through four separate rounds of analysis, or iterations. The first two iterations developed "unconstrained" concepts, based on unconstrained demand forecasts that assume no structural or regulatory limitations. The final two iterations were "constrained," placing priorities on environmental and community concerns.

Before the preferred alternative and the LAX Master Plan are approved, they will be reviewed by more than 70 agencies and in hundreds of public community meetings. Only after receiving public input will the proposed Master Plan be reviewed and considered for approval by Los Angeles City officials and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Unconstrained Concepts Evaluation

The initial concept evaluation that makes up the first iteration of concept development investigated a complete range of basic runway configurations to serve the forecast LAX demand. Ground access and terminal issues were considered for each airside option, with detailed layouts slated for development and evaluation in the second iteration.

Using the airfield options carried forward from the 1st iteration, the 2nd iteration set strategic goals, developed site-specific themes, identified technical and political issues, performed technical analyses, and solicited direction and feedback from community leaders. Terminal, cargo, ancillary, and ground transportation options were then evaluated. The final results of each discipline's analysis were combined for each airfield option to create four "integrated" concepts that were carried forward for additional analysis in the 3rd iteration.

Integrated Airport Concepts

Based on the 2nd iteration analysis, a series of integrated concepts were formulated. These concepts combine the four shortlisted airfield options with the best options available from each discipline-terminal, cargo, ancillary facilities, and on- and off-airport ground transportation.

These four integrated concepts could reasonably meet the 2nd iteration goals and objectives set forth by the LAWA for airport expansion. They were therefore carried forward for additional analysis in the 3rd iteration of concept development.

• Concept 1 – Five-Runway

• Concept 2 – Six-Runway East

• Concept 3 – Six-Runway West

• Concept 4 – Hawthorne

Constrained Alternatives Evaluation

The 3rd and final iteration integrated alternatives do not meet all of the forecast 2015 demand (or 2005 demand in some cases) without changes in the various components of air service. As a result, constrained activity profiles were created to reflect the airline response to a constrained environment. These constrained activity profiles were used to evaluate the 3rd and final iteration alternatives.

3rd Iteration

At the beginning of the 3rd iteration, the four integrated concepts were given extensive public review as part of a comprehensive scoping process for the environmental review documents. After the public review, the Hawthorne alternative was eliminated because of strong opposition from the City of Hawthorne and airline concerns. Alternative 3 was eliminated because Alternative 2 provided the same new runways and airport facilities as Alternative 3 without any potential intrusion west into the Dunes. A new alternative (Alternative 3) was developed which included a fifth runway on the south airfield.

The two remaining alternatives (Alternatives 1 and 2), the new five runway south alternative (Alternative 3), and a No Build Alternative, which assumes no additional improvements to LAX beyond what is currently programmed, were analyzed for airside performance and environmental impacts in the 3rd iteration.

This evaluation eliminated Alternative 2 for its high environmental impacts and limited capacity benefits. At this time, LAWA and the FAA decided to develop a scaled-down four-runway alternative similar to the "Minimal Change" option that was considered and dismissed during the 1st iteration. Thus, four alternatives were carried forward in the final iteration of the master plan analyses and in the Draft EIS/EIR (the build alternatives are now identified with the letters A, B, and C):

• No Action/No Project Alternative

• Alternative A – Added Runway North

• Alternative B – Added Runway South

• Alternative C – No Additional Runway

Final Iteration

In the final iteration of analysis, the three final build alternatives and the No Action/No Project Alternative carried forward from the 3rd iteration were evaluated based on how well they met the Master Plan goals and objectives. This analysis resulted in the selection of Alternative C as LAWA's preferred alternative. Alternative C would achieve the best balance between increased LAX activity and environmental, social, land use, ground access, economic, and air commerce impacts. All four alternatives were carried forward for evaluation in the Draft EIS/EIR.


© 2023 The Planning Report | David Abel, Publisher, ABL, Inc.