A lawmaker’s bill to expedite the transfer of Ontario International Airport from Los Angeles World Airports to the Ontario International Airport Authority was approved Monday by Congress.
“With the passage of this bill today, we are one step closer to restoring local control of Ontario Airport,” said Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Corona. “I’m looking forward to the Senate approving the bill and having it signed into law by the end of the week. The Inland Empire is ready, willing and more than able to shape its own aviation future.”
Calvert’s H.R. 4369 was packaged with the FAA Reauthorization Act, which received majority approval. A companion measure is pending action in the U.S. Senate.
Under the transfer agreement contained in the House bill, LAWA will be entitled to $120 million in ONT passenger facilities charges over the next decade. Ontario will have five years to make the first $50 million in PFC distributions, according to the legislation.
Calvert said the money is a linchpin in the compact and serves as reimbursement for the outlays Los Angeles made to cover construction of a new terminal at Ontario International during the 1990s.
Inland Empire officials discern the airport as a growth engine for the region.
In December, Los Angeles reached a tentative deal with Ontario over transferring ownership rights to the latter in order to end a court battle that began in June 2013, with a lawsuit alleging breach of fiduciary duty and other contract violations by LAWA, which had been Ontario International’s overseer since 1985, and a stakeholder since 1967.
The Set Ontario Free campaign alleged LAWA, and by extension the city of Los Angeles, had intentionally neglected the airport, allowing business to slide for the benefit of Los Angeles International Airport.
LA officials countered that nearly $500 million had been invested for upgrades and modifications at Ontario over several decades, and that the decline in economic activity was due to regional factors.
Under the agreement reached in December, LAWA will gradually relinquish all supervision of the airfield before the end of this year. In turn, Ontario will pay L.A., as well as assume all of the airport’s debts. The deal is valued at roughly $250 million.
There’s also a stipulation that Ontario retain most of the airfield’s current workforce.
A Riverside County Superior Court judge is monitoring the transfer as part of the out-of-court settlement.
–City News Service