Business & Economy

LAX runway closures could mean delays for the next 3 years

A file photo shows an airplane landing at LAX. A runway on the south side of Los Angeles International Airport was shut down Friday, March 6, 2015, the first of four closures planned between now and 2018.
A file photo shows an airplane landing at LAX. A runway on the south side of Los Angeles International Airport was shut down Friday, March 6, 2015, the first of four closures planned between now and 2018.
Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

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A series of planned runway closures that got started Friday could lead to flight delays at Los Angeles International Airport for the next three years.

Runway 7R-25L, the outermost airstrip on the south side of LAX and the first of four to close, will undergo construction for the next 33 days, according to Mary Grady, spokeswoman for Los Angeles World Airports.

"So travelers may experience delays that are similar to those that they see on bad weather days when we have the marine layer or fog at the airport," Grady told KPCC.

In addition, the communities around LAX could experience periodic increases in noise as the air traffic patterns shift temporarily, Grady said.

It's all part of a multi-year project to improve the airport's runway safety areas, or RSA's, which provide extra space around airstrips in the event a plane overshoots, overruns or veers off the runway.

LAX is one of more than 40 other airports nationwide that are required to meet new federal RSA requirements, and as Grady told KPCC, the airports in Van Nuys and Ontario, both operated by LAWA, have already completed their upgrades. Now it's time for LAX to do the same.

To help minimize the impact, LAWA will close just one runway at a time. Here's a look at the closures planned between now and 2018:

Video map

You can also see a complete map of LAX's construction plans here.

Airport officials have a sense of the impact on travelers because they have shut down runways in the past, but LAX has grown since the last closure, according to Grady.

"We now have nearly 71 million passengers, so this next 33 days will really be a good test for us to see how to best manage any passenger impacts," Grady told KPCC.

LAWA plans to take advantage of the runway closures to slip in some other maintenance work, too. Rubber needs to be removed from the runways, paint re-applied, lighting work needs to be done, Grady said.

"We have a lot of planes that take off and land and use those runways. If you think of all the maintenance that needs to be done on the freeway systems here in the city of Los Angeles and in Southern California — well, imagine what it's like for an airport like LAX that has nearly 1,900 flight operations a day," Grady said.

Overall, the cost of the improvements is expected to be about $250 million, a relatively small chunk of the airport's $8.5 billion capital development project. You can find out more about the runway closures and other changes in store for the airport at LAXishappening.com, a website set up by LAWA to help answer questions from the public.

Grady left travelers with a couple of tips: Sign up for text alerts from your airline so you're one of the first to know about delays, and always be sure to call the airline directly for specific flight information. To that we might add downloading the airline's app, if it has one. Either way, a healthy dose of patience will probably go a lot further.