ONTARIO: Airport handover nearly done
Legislation that would help facilitate the transfer of LA/Ontario International Airport to local control has now passed both the House and the Senate.
The bill, which was approved by the Senate Wednesday afternoon on a 89-4 vote, was part of a broader bill extending the Federal Aviation Administration. It is now expected to be signed into law by President Barack Obama.
“This is a landmark day in Southern California aviation,” Alan Wapner, Ontario International Airport Authority president, said in a statement.
In January, Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Corona, introduced HR 4369, which would take future passenger fees at ONT to help pay off the cost 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.
Talks about returning local control of the airport for a fair price began under L.A. 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 terminal of ONT to announce an agreement had been reached.
It was Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, 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 that “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, and 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. It will allow OIAA to issue new bonds to complete the transfer process. The bond process is expected to take 10 weeks. Officials have said they expect to complete the transfer of the airport by October.