By Wendy Leung, Staff Writer
Created: 01/20/2012 03:29:05 PM PST

RANCHO CUCAMONGA – As Ontario steps up efforts to gain autonomy of L.A./Ontario International Airport, leaders from neighboring Rancho Cucamonga are joining a growing number of agencies calling for local control.

“If ONT were to close, this whole Inland Valley would have to go to L.A. Imagine the increase of traffic and unpleasantness,” Rancho Cucamonga Councilwoman Diane Williams said. “That airport is one of the most important central hubs of our region. The whole Inland Empire benefits from that airport.”

The City Council has directed its city manager to open up dialogue with the neighboring city and find out how Rancho Cucamonga can play a bigger role in helping the struggling airport regain its footing.

Operated by Los Angeles World Airports, ONT has been hemorrhaging passengers since its height in 2007. This year, the airport will see 2.7 million fewer passengers than 2007 and the number of flights for the first six months will drop 8 percent compared to the same period last year.

The Ontario City Council contends local or regional control will help turn around the airport but LAWA believes outside forces like a limping economy is to blame.

On Tuesday, Ontario leaders unveiled a public relations effort to save the airport.

Anchored by a website and social media presence, the campaign calls on the public to contact the Los Angeles mayor and City Council on the matter.

“We don’t see the downward spiral to reverse,” Ontario Councilman Alan Wapner said about the precipitous drop in ridership. “Without prompt intervention and local control, my prediction is the airport will not survive in the next two or three years.”

Among the gloomiest forecast comes from the Federal Aviation Administration, which predicts 6.1 million ONT passengers in 2035. If that were to come true, it would mean ridership 25 years from now would mirror numbers 10 years ago.

To read entire story, click here.