Santa Monica Firms Contract for Shorter SMO Runway

 - August 14, 2017, 10:56 AM
The runway at Santa Monica Airport will be shortened to 3,500 feet from 4,973 feet, which is expected to halve the amount of jet traffic at the airport. (Photo: Santa Monica Airport)

The Santa Monica city council in California has agreed to a $3.5 million “guaranteed maximum price” contract to Aecom to shorten the runway at Santa Monica Airport (SMO) from 5,000 feet to 3,500 feet. The August 8 approval of the contract is in line with the city’s timeline to begin work on shortening the runway in October and complete the project by December 7, when new FAA charts are ready for release.

A January 28 settlement between the FAA and the city cleared the way for the runway-trimming project, as well as permitted the city to close the airport after Dec. 31, 2028. The city anticipates a 45 percent reduction in jet traffic with the shorter runway, saying, “Regaining local control of land use at SMO and reducing the health and safety impacts on adjacent residents is one of the city council’s strategic goals.”

NBAA has filed a lawsuit with the U.S. Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit, in February challenging the agreement between the FAA and the city and is planning to file a brief on the lawsuit in time for the deadline on Wednesday. Deadlines for amicus briefs, meanwhile, are due August 23.

But NBAA director of airports and ground infrastructure Alex Gertsen does not expect the court process to conclude for another year—well after the city’s timeline for shortening the runway. The court in May denied the association’s request for an injunction against shortening the runway. NBAA appealed to the city to allow the process to work its way through the courts before taking action on the runway, but the city moved ahead, dismissing NBAA’s arguments.

Initial plans for shortening the runway, however, do not include actual destruction of runway pavement. They include repainting, moving navaids, removing taxiways and installing new taxiways that would accommodate the shorter runway.

The city council had already awarded a design contract to Aecom to design the runway-shortening project at Santa Monica. Final design completion is anticipated this month, with site preparation beginning in October. According to Nelson Hernandez, a senior advisor to the city manager on airport affairs, the airport will be frequently closed from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. to accommodate the work. In addition, the city anticipates a seven- to 14-day “hard closure” period.

While the initial plan would keep pavement intact, the city noted “staff has begun the process of developing options for removal of excess runway pavement (as the result of the runway shortening),” and anticipates presenting those proposals to the city council in late September. Gertsen noted removal of runway pavement could be a much costlier endeavor, with environmental ramifications.

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Finally some good news on this issue.

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