The FAA has long warned LAX to reconfigure the northern runways, arguing that improving airfield geometry would heighten safety. “Ultimately the geometry of the airfield has to be fixed, and it has to be fixed so that in the event of human error, we have done everything we can to prevent an accident,” Zifkin said. Airport Commissioner Valeria Velasco argued that other safety measures should be given a chance before the runways are shifted. “No matter how you configure the runways, it’s human error,” Velasco said. “Moving the runways, in and of itself, isn’t going to solve all our problems.” The commission agreed to move ahead with its own runway study, even though a $2 million “independent review” by NASA Ames Research Center continues to languish. The commission requested the study in August, hoping that NASA would list the best options for the northern runway. The parameters for the report are still being negotiated, according to Gina Marie Lindsey, executive director of Los Angeles World Airports, the city agency that operates LAX. Lindsey said part of the problem with NASA stems from the fact that the agency has shifted its priorities to studying space, rather than aviation. “Can we just tell NASA that we’d like to have our safety issues solved before they make it to Mars, OK?” Rothenberg told Lindsey. The NASA study was requested after five previous reports completed by aviation consulting groups called for moving one of the northern runways at least 340 feet toward the communities of Westchester and Playa del Rey. “We have study after study, and they all seem to come to the same conclusion,” Airport Commissioner Joseph Aredas said. “The conclusion is we have a safety problem. I don’t think any commissioner sitting up here wants to feel responsible for the loss of one life, or the loss of 100 lives.” [email protected] local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWhicker: Clemson demonstrates that it’s tough to knock out the champIn the short term, however, airport staff will study whether improved safety lights and radar systems should be installed at the northern runways, and whether more air traffic controllers should be hired at the LAX tower. “We are an accident waiting to happen, literally and figuratively, and we want to avoid that,” Rothenberg said. “We want to take all the necessary steps in the meantime, and then move as quickly as we can once we know what the solution is.” The commission’s call for a speedy runway review comes less than two weeks after the Government Accountability Office found a “high risk” of close calls between aircraft maneuvering on the ground at the nation’s airports, including LAX. Fifty-five runway incursions have been reported at LAX since 2001, eight of which occurred during the 2007 fiscal year that ended on Sept. 30, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. The most serious of those incidents was reported Aug. 16, when two jetliners came within 37 feet of each other in the northern airfield at LAX. “All reports show that if we don’t move that north runway, there will be a catastrophic accident,” said Airport Commissioner Fernando Torres-Gil. “We may or may not be liable legally, but we will certainly be liable morally in the court of public opinion.” In the wake of a congressional report that blasted Los Angeles International Airport for its high rate of runway incursions, airport commissioners Monday called for immediate measures to heighten safety on the north airfield. In the meantime, the commission signaled that it intends on Jan. 14 to ask for a speedy environmental study examining how LAX’s parallel northern runways should be reconfigured. “If there were to be an accident, I don’t think that we could ever forgive ourselves for not having done anything, nor would we be forgiven for not doing anything,” Airport Commissioner Walter Zifkin said. “All we can do now is do whatever we can to expedite this, to speed this up, to no longer delay.” Environmental reports typically take 18 to 24 months to complete. To hurry along construction of a new runway, the commission might agree to hire contractors and designers while the environmental study takes place, rather than wait until a final report is released, according to airport commission President Alan Rothenberg.