Airport Terminal Progress Roils Opponents

(Burbank Leader file photo) - Builders for the Hollywood-Burbank Airport’s new passenger replacement terminal could be selected by as early as December.

First published in the Oct. 15 print issue of the Burbank Leader.

The Hollywood-Burbank Airport is closing in on a contract with builders for its new 14-gate replacement passenger terminal, which officials estimate could be completed by 2026.
The Airport Authority is expected to select a builder during its Dec. 19 meeting.
The replacement terminal, which is still in the planning phase, will have the same number of gates — 14 — but will increase from 232,000 square feet to about 355,000 square feet. It will be built at the northeast end of the airport, replacing the existing almost 100-year-old terminal in the southeast.
U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman, who represents the San Fernando Valley, spoke out against the project, saying progress should be halted until the FAA addresses noise and environmental impacts on the community.
The city of Los Angeles is suing the FAA, arguing that its environmental review of the terminal project did not consider designs that could have a lesser impact on the surrounding community.
In August, on direction from the FAA, the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority (BGPAA) voted to seek funding from the Bipartisan Federal Infrastructure and Investment Jobs Act (IIJA) to extend an agreement with a consultant “for additional support for the Environmental Impact Statement litigation related to the Replacement Passenger Terminal Project,” according to the commission’s meeting notes.
The BGPAA agreed to allocate $269,663 to the consultant, RS&H, in order to lengthen the contract bid to Dec. 2022.
Sherman has said he opposes this use of funds. He told the Leader that he recently sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, “opposing the use of Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (H.R.3684) funding for the purpose of litigation against communities that continue to suffer under the FAA’s newly concentrated flight paths.”
“The situation at the Burbank Airport is unacceptable. We should not even be considering any airport expansion plans that could lead to more noise or other negative community impacts until the FAA has taken successful steps to dramatically reduce aviation impact on the community,” he added.
BGPAA officials say RS&H’s work was provided for the FAA and initially funded by separate FAA Airport Improvement Program grants. The FAA determined that additional RS&H’s environmental consulting services “would be useful in the defense of the litigation and asked the Airport Authority to extend RS&H’s contract,” a BGPAA spokesperson told the Leader. At the FAA’s direction, RS&H will be funded through the remaining AIP grant funds and through a separate grant under the IIJA, BGPAA officials said.
“This money is supposed to be for building things that people agree should be built, not to fight litigation battles for things that shouldn’t be built,” Sherman said.
BGPAA officials disputed this, telling the Leader “these AIP and IIJA funds are not being used for litigation. They are being used, at the FAA’s direction, for additional environmental consultant services related to the environmental impact statement for the RPT Project.”
In a report to the City Council on Tuesday, BGPAA Executive Director Frank Miller expressed excitement regarding the project, announcing steps to prepare the community and partnering agencies for the start of construction. “We want to make sure that — as we start to talk about a groundbreaking — everyone is in sync,” he said.
Local residents and advocacy groups have widely criticized the replacement terminal process. Burbank City Councilmembers, however, have spoken out in favor of it as airport operations ramp up to pre-pandemic levels.
“Why is almost $300,000 in taxpayer money that could be used to improve safety at the Hollywood Burbank Airport by fixing their unsafe airfield being used for litigation to achieve the airport’s business objectives?” Los Angeles resident and noise activist, Justin Dickerson, asked.

AIRPORT AUTHORITY GIVES REPORT TO CITY COUNCIL
Members of the Airport Authority appeared before the Burbank City Council on Tuesday, doubling down on their promise to make the construction process for the new replacement passenger terminal as seamless as possible.
“It’s going from a 14-gate terminal to a 14-gate terminal, so we are still very much talking to people about it being a replacement passenger terminal. It is not an expansion of the services, but it will be a model for the future,” Emily Gabel-Luddy said during the report to the council on Tuesday.
Burbank voters approved the planning and construction of the 14-gate terminal with the passage of Measure B in 2016. Still in its planning phase, the airport recently approved a contract for program management services.
“The staff is very cost-conscious, while trying to move forward in achieving our goals for greater sustainability on the airport itself,” Gabel-Luddy said, adding that the replacement terminal will be built in partnership with a progressive design firm.
This allows for the agency to avoid selecting the lowest cost builder, prioritizing issues like quality and sustainability, she noted.
“It affords the agency a great deal of flexibility while not losing sight of the need to contain costs and still meet our objectives for a [high quality] terminal,” she added. The agency is seeking the highest possible environmental rating for green buildings, Gabel-Luddy told the council.