Regional dignitaries gathered Friday morning at Burbank’s Bob Hope Airport to break ground on the largest capital project in the airport’s 82 year history. “Today the Regional Intermodal Transportation Center groundbreaking represents a first step, not only for the Burbank Bob Hope Airport, but also for the entire region” explained Jack O’Neill, representative of the Bob Hope Estate and host of the event.
The Intermodal Center project will include new rental car facilities, a new bus transit station, and enhancements to the existing Amtrak and MetroLink train stations, in addition to a new five-level parking structure.
“For the Airport Authority, this project represents our ongoing commitment to improving convenience for all our passengers, convenience for Southern California, while at the same time improving quality of life for our neighbors.” Said Chris Holden, President, Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority. “This project will reduce traffic, and promote use of alternative public transportation while providing a state-of-the-art rental car facility.”
The Burbank Bob Hope Airport will also further contribute to the community as a regional alternative transportation center to LAX. “For that to happen, we need to extend the Orange Line, or the Red Line (Metro) to this location” stated Rep. Brad Sherman of the 27th Congressional District. Sherman emphasized Metro extensions are important for the region, as with other airports around the nation, “as not everybody using the airport should need to bring a car.”
However the transportation picture for Southern California, including the Bob Hope Airport, is a larger issue. While Bob Hope Airport is the only regional airport with direct rail connections via Amtrak and MetroLink, that is not enough.
“We need to pursue a rail connection of the Gold Line (Metro) from Pasadena to the Bob Hope Airport” noted Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, who is also chairman of the board of the Metropotlitan Transportation Authority. “We can also extend that Gold Line to the Ontario Airport. We can work to extend the Green Line to LAX, and the Blue Line to service Long Beach Airport” continued Antonovich. “LA County is the only major region in the United States that does not have rail connections to all our airports, and that is stupid”
The Transportation Center project is expected to add a large number of construction jobs to the local community, a welcome message during tough economic times. “There is some controversy about the whole idea of earmarks (provision that directs approved funds to be spent on specific projects), but this is not a Bridge to Nowhere” advised Sherman. “This shows that at least much of the time a member of Congress can find a project worthy of federal funds that is a good use of federal dollars.”
Bob Hope Airport, like all major airports, is located within a large community. The Transportation Center project will provide a substantial positive impact on the community. “This facility is going to take cars off the streets” ensured Burbank Mayor Dave Golonski. As plans for rail extensions to Bob Hope Airport and other regional airports and communities are realized, measurable reduction in traffic along congested corridors such as I-5 and US-101 is anticipated. This will improve not only the quality of life for commuters and travelers, but also contribute to reducing the impact of emissions throughout the region.
“We live in a region with 10 million people, 88 cities, and 134 unincorporated communities with 1.5 million people. The citizens in Kern County, Orange County, and San Bernardino County are
congesting our freeways trying to get to one airport that doesn’t even have a rail connection when we could be utilizing all of the airports in this region” stressed Antonovich. “We want this (regional transportation projects) done in our lifetime, because the air we breathe is current today, and we want to improve that air quality.”
Bob Hope Airport, supporting projects such as the Regional Intermodal Transportation Center is an important first step in reaching that goal. “The days of thinking of an airport as simply a place to get on and off of airplanes is over” noted Dan Feger, Executive Director, Bob Hope Airport. “The day of thinking of an airport as an integrated element of all modes of transportation is upon us. To that end, this project ushers in a new era of cooperation between aviation, highways, and public transportation systems.”
According to Don Brown, former President of the Burbank Airport Authority, In Burbank the attitude has changed regarding the airport from 10 years ago. Ten years ago the community was opposed to the airport. However in a recent survey 80% of the people of Burbank were in favor of a
replacement terminal, and the perception of improving the airport was very positive.” This is due in part to a very positive “thought leadership” campaign by the Airport Commission informing the public of initiatives being done to reduce quality of life impact, as well as the value Bob Hope Airport brings to the community and region.
Mayor Golonski added another important point to the Transportation Center concept – that of supporting the region in the event of a large natural disaster, such as a major earthquake. “The Transportation Center will withstand a significant earthquake. It is a hardened facility, and will play a critical role in the region in the event of a natural disaster.”
Brown added that other area airports may sustain significant damage to their runways during an earthquake, while Bob Hope Airport would likely survive. Burbank Airport Chief of Police Ed Skvarna agrees, noting Bob Hope Airport is 250 feet above the water table. “LAX, Van Nuys, Long Beach, San Diego, Los Alamitos, they’re all built on marshland, susceptible to liquefaction. This will be the place to come (for managing disaster response in the Southern California region).”
The groundbreaking ceremony ended with all dignitaries digging in, a symbolic gesture kicking off an enormous event that is just beginning to present its overall value for both Burbank, and the region.