Ontario airport bill awaits President Obama’s approval
Legislation that would help facilitate the transfer of L.A./Ontario International Airport to local control has now passed both the House and the Senate.
The bill, which was approved by the Senate on a 89-4 vote Wednesday afternoon, was part of a broader bill reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration. It is now awaiting President Barack Obama’s signature.
“This is a landmark day in Southern California aviation,” Alan Wapner, Ontario International Airport Authority president and Ontario City Council member, said in a statement.
In January, Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Corona, introduced HR 4369, which would use future passenger fees at ONT to help pay for the two terminals, a 2015 condition of turning over the airport from Los Angeles World Airports to the Ontario International Airport Authority. Last week, Calvert announced the bill has been included in the FAA reauthorization bill.
“Without this legislation, the long overdue agreement to transfer control of Ontario Airport could not move forward,” Rep. Norma Torres, D-Pomona — who co-sponsored the legislation — said in a statement. “Now that both the Senate and the House have approved this measure, and it is poised to be signed by the president, we have cleared a major hurdle in the transfer process and are one step closer to finally getting local control of our airport.”
Talks about returning local control of the airport for a fair price began under Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s predecessor, but both sides failed to reach an agreement. On Aug. 5, 2015, Garcetti and Wapner held a press conference in the ONT terminal to announce an agreement had been reached.
It was Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who brought Ontario and Los Angeles to the negotiating table.
“Today is four years in the making. This bill will allow Ontario Airport to return to local control, a significant victory for the Inland Empire,” Feinstein said in a statement. “The transfer will allow the airport to be revitalized and reclaim its role as a driver of economic growth for California.”
She added, “It took two mayoral administrations to get here, and I’d like to congratulate the leadership of both airports and the cities and counties that helped — their persistence to achieve consensus made this transfer a reality.”
Wapner said he was grateful for the bipartisan support the legislation received in the region.
Under the settlement agreement, the Ontario International Airport Authority will pay Los Angeles World Airports $50 million from passenger facility charges in the first five years, then another $70 million from passenger facility charges in the final five years.
Once the funding mechanism is worked out, the authority will take the agreement back to LAWA’s Board of Airport Commissioners to ratify its funding plan, which would then allow OIAA to issue new bonds to complete the transfer process. The bond process itself is expected to take 10 weeks.
Officials have said they expect to complete the transfer of the airport by October.