SHERMAN OAKS—At a community town hall meeting on the evening of Wednesday, January 4, Congressman Howard Berman discussed the 405 freeway improvement project and issued an update on the status of legislation to reduce helicopter noise in Los Angeles County.

During the meeting in Burrill Hall at Robert A. Millikan Middle School, Berman touted his ability to have the start date of the I-405 Sepulveda Pass Improvements Project that will add carpool lanes and soundproofing (among other upgrades) moved up to 2009 from 2018.  Berman, who represents the 28th District in California, said the May 2009 groundbreaking of the project was made possible by him being able to “persuade” the Public Works Committee to issue an estimated $130 million to allow for the project to begin earlier than scheduled.  Berman proceeded to name off the benefits thousands of commuters using the 405 Freeway will enjoy when the project is completed.  Carpool lanes, wider driving lanes and shoulders on both sides would be just some of the benefits of the project, according to Berman who received a round of applause from the audience at this time.

According to Metro’s website (the organization which is overseeing the large scale project), the I-405 Sepulveda Pass Improvements Project will add a 10-mile high-occupancy vehicle (or carpool) lane on the northbound I-405 between the I-10 and US-101 Freeways, remove and replace the Skirball Center Drive, Sunset Boulevard and Mulholland Drive bridges, realign 27 on and off-ramps, widen 13 existing underpasses and structures and construct an estimated 18 miles of retaining wall and sound wall.

Discussion in the meeting then shifted to H.R. 2677, L.A. Residential Helicopter Noise Relief Act of 2011.  According to The Library of Congress website, the purpose of the bill, proposed on July 28, 2011 in the House of Representatives, is “to direct the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration to issue regulations to reduce helicopter noise pollution in residential areas of Los Angeles County, California, and for other purposes.”

Before discussing the status of the bill, Berman pointed out something he noticed was missing from the current crop of federal government agencies.

“It’s hard to believe that no agency currently exists that controls flight paths and altitudes.  The cities control what airports they (helicopters) take off and land in but there’s no agency that oversees the operation of helicopters,” Berman said.

Berman then proceeded to say the bill, which he co-sponsors with Rep. Janice Hahn, Rep. Adam Schiff, Rep. Brad Sherman and Rep. Henry Waxman, was currently in committee and said he would soon be meeting with various parties that will be affected by the proposed legislation including the Helicopter Association.

To a large amount of cheers from the audience, Berman added he felt this bill is necessary for L.A. County because helicopter noise related to tourism where fly-overs are conducted on celebrity homes is getting out of hand and needs to be addressed.  If passed, regulations would need to be issued within one year.  The bill would not apply to helicopter operations used for emergency, law enforcement or military activities.