Los Angeles Sues Contractors over LAX Runway that Is Falling Apart

Monday, October 21, 2013
Landing on Runway 25L at LAX

Apparently a newly-discovered species of legless lizard isn’t the only unexpected creature found slithering around the runways at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).

The city of Los Angeles has sued the contractors (pdf) who built a $250-million runway extension six years ago for shoddy workmanship that has left the 13,000-foot strip of concrete with cracks and other construction defects. Normally, runway construction lasts 20-25 years. The lawsuit cites steel rebar poking up through the concrete and dislodged chunks of concrete.

The work was done by a consortium of construction companies headed by Tutor-Saliba, whose principle executive, Ron Tutor, is head of Tutor-Perini, lead contractor on the first leg of the state high-speed rail project set to start soon in the Central Valley.

The lawsuit was filed against R&L Brosamer, HNTB Corp., CH2M Hill Inc. and a joint venture involving Tutor-Saliba Corp. and O&G Industries Inc. The selection of Tutor-Saliba was controversial at the time because of complaints over three other large projects the company had been involved in. The company was threatened in 2003 with removal from a $34-million airport-related project in suburban Van Nuys over defects in a parking garage and flyaway terminal. It also was criticized for its work on UCLA Westwood Replacement Hospital and Los Angeles Unified School District's East Valley High School.   

The lawsuit alleges the contractors used flawed designs and concrete that didn’t meet the specifications of the contract, and that the runway problems also exist in other parts of the airport, such as the runway overpass at Sepulveda Boulevard. Although Runway 25L remains operative for now, the “runway is deficient and will have to be replaced,” the lawsuit states.

The Runway 25L project removed and replaced one of the airport’s two south runways to put 55 feet more space between them for safety reasons and built a new taxi lane between them. The airport had led the nation in runway incursions from taxiing planes.

A similar project for spacing the north runways was approved by the city council in April as part of a $4.76 billion airport makeover, despite opposition that included soon-to-be-elected Mayor Eric Garcetti. Neighbors north of the runway objected to having it moved closer to them, citing pollution and noise among their concerns.

Similar objections from residents south of the southern runway failed to stop that construction project. Garcetti, who was one of three no votes on the council, was elected mayor in May. Residents also fear that the runway projects are part of a larger effort to increase traffic at the airport and accommodate larger planes.

In August, the city council approved five new members of the powerful Airport Commission that manages LAX, three of whom said they would like to revisit the decision to move the north runway. A couple of lawsuits have been filed to halt the project and some fear they could hold up the larger airport modernization project.

–Ken Broder


To Learn More;     

Los Angeles Sues Construction Firms over LAX Runway Work (by Brian Sumers, Torrance Daily Breeze)

$250-Million Runway at LAX Falling Apart, Lawsuit Contends (by Dan Weikel, Los Angeles Times)

3 New Airport Commissioners “Willing to Take Second Look” at LAX Runway Plan (by John Schreiber, Culver City Patch)

Tutor-Saliba Keeps LAX Runway Work (by Dan Laidman, Los Angeles Daily News)

City of L.A. v. Tutor-Saliba Corporation et al (Los Angeles County Superior Court Southwest District) (pdf)

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