The Santa Monica City Council is expected to consider a proposal to shorten the runway at Santa Monica Airport (SMO) in California from nearly 5,000 feet to 3,500 feet. In a split decision, the Santa Monica Airport Commission agreed on Tuesday to make that recommendation to the city council, opting for a project that would cut essentially the same distance from each end of SMO's sole Runway 3/21. The commission also agreed to recommend that the city move forward with a California Environmental Quality Act study as soon as possible.
The city has awarded a design-build contract to Aecom/Aeroplex to design the runway-shortening project, which is estimated to cost $4 million and would be completed by year-end. A January 28 settlement between the FAA and the city cleared the way for the runway-shortening project, as well as permitted the city to close the airport after Dec. 31, 2028.
The airport commission’s recommendations came over the objections of NBAA, which urged the airport commission to defer action until the courts can determine whether the FAA exceeded its legal authority by entering into the January 28 settlement agreement. NBAA and other airport advocates filed a lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia challenging the validity of the agreement between the FAA and the city.
NBAA also questioned claims in the airport commission’s proposals that the runway shortening would reduce noise experienced by airport neighbors. “When the city previously studied the consequences of a shortened runway at SMO (as reported to the commission on Sept. 23, 1985), the city concluded that doing so not only would have no cognizable benefits, but potentially could result in an increase in noise,” NBAA wrote late last week to the airport commission. “In this case, no professional study of the noise—or other—consequences of the proposals appears to have been performed.”