By Patricia M. Szpekowski, APR
Are you aware of the excitement taking place at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)?
Progress is happening as Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) continues its $14-billion Capital Improvement Program at LAX.
It is a massive undertaking of more than two dozen projects that began in 2009, with several critical projects expected to be completed by 2023. The LAX modernization program is considered the largest public works program in the history of the City of Los Angeles.
The multi-billion-dollar investment in modernizing LAX also includes approximately $1 billion in direct and/or indirect improvements to ensure the quality of passenger safety and security.
The decision to re-imagine, renovate and rebuild LAX is an important step forward to greatly enhance and improve the travel experience for all who arrive and depart at LAX, the seventh-busiest airport in the world and third in the United States. It is all the more essential to exceed the pace and expectations for LAX, which in 2015 set a record for passenger volume with more than 74.9 million passengers, and will easily top that record in 2016.
The vision that drives this monumental project at LAX affects all aspects of its users, including millions of passengers, 64 airlines and over 50,000 airport workers. The modernization program encompasses vast improvements to: enhance the passenger experience; provide reliable and certain access into and out of LAX, and provide airport access to the latest class of very large passenger aircraft.
In addition, the modernization will continue to have a staggering overall impact on the economy of the City of Los Angeles, with the creation of an expected 121,000 annual construction-related jobs.
LAX has long been recognized as an economic engine for the six-county Southern California region encompassing Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego and Ventura. Economic effects of the modernization project include direct, indirect impacts resulting from ongoing activities, visitor spending, and international exports.
The projects underway at LAX and those being planned will continue job growth and provide opportunities for small, local and diverse businesses.
There are a host of successfully completed projects. The first major project, the New Tom Bradley International Terminal (New TBIT), opened in September 2013. It includes 18 new aircraft gates, concourse areas, and the new Great Hall, which offers passengers premier dining choices showcasing L.A.’s global flavors, a variety of concessionaires and retail shopping trend favorites, and other guest amenities for a world-class experience.
Walking through the Great Hall, you’ll see it is a modern engineering marvel. It provides 1,179,000 of usable square feet — nearly 40 percent greater than that of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington D.C. It contains over 45,000 tons of steel, enough to build 148 Airbus A380 super jumbo jets or 22,206 mid-sized SUVs. It offers over 310,785 square feet of glass, enough to create a window the size of 6.5 football fields. It contains 405,405 cubic feet of concrete, enough to fill 8,000 cement trucks or to create a one-foot-thick slab of concrete the size of 8.5 football fields.
Also, completed, or underway, are several major airfield and facility projects. A replacement Central Utility Plant went online in 2015. The Terminal 4 Connector, which opened in 2016, helps tie together the southside terminals and international terminal, reduces the time it takes for passengers to reach connecting flights, improving the guest experience. Upgrades have been completed in Terminal 6, and are nearly done in Terminal 2. Other work includes new taxiways and taxilanes, and major renovations and infrastructure upgrades in nearly all the other terminals.
The largest projects still to come include proposed transportation efficiencies. Traffic into and on the roadways in the LAX Central Terminal Area is a major concern, with an estimated 50 percent of air travelers driving to and from the airport by car. Over 6,000 vehicles per hour enter the LAX Central Terminal Area (CTA) during peak periods!
The number of vehicles is expected to increase as annual passenger volume continues to break records. The $5.5-billion Landside Access Modernization Program would give airport guests choices that provide a first-class, convenient, and reliable way to access LAX. LAMP includes five major program elements: a 2.25-mile Automated People Mover (APM) that will connect three on-airport stations to Metro Rail and transit services — finally providing a seamless connection to public transportation; a Consolidated Rent-A-Car center; two Intermodal Transportation Facilities for additional parking, ground transportation services, and meeter-greeter activities; and roadway improvements. LAMP would provide the solution to the CTA traffic congestion, and its major elements are scheduled to be delivered by 2023.
There will be a total of six stations connecting new rental car, airport parking and Metro facilities to the airline terminals. Passengers will have short wait times at each of the three stations in the Central Terminal Area providing fast and easy connections to airline terminals with a convenient pedestrian walkway system to the terminals and parking garages.
Another major project is the new $1.6 billion Midfield Satellite Concourse (MSC). Phase I of the state-of-the-art facility will open with 12 gates and be in the central part of the LAX airfield, west of the Tom Bradley International Terminal. It will significantly reduce use of the LAX remote gates, where passengers are now bused to board aircraft, and provide additional flexibility when other gates are taken out of service. Substantial completion of the North Gates phase of the concourse, as well as a project to expand baggage handling capacity, is anticipated in late 2019, with additional gates built in a second phase on the south side in the future.
Terminal 1 opened in 1984 and needs modernization to accommodate the needs of a technology-rich, post-9/11 world. A major $509-million transformation of the 32-year-old Terminal 1 will improve its interior, its outdoor aircraft parking ramp area, and the traffic flow through the Central Terminal Area. The upgrades include: a new state-of-the-art, consolidated security screening checkpoint; a fully automated checked baggage inspection and sorting system; an integrated passenger waiting room/concessions program; refurbished arrivals/baggage claim area; replacement of the passenger boarding bridges; renovations to airline support office space; relocation of the main entrances towards the west end of the building to ease traffic congestion; new ramp pavement and hydrant fuel system improvements. A new, covered skycap area has already opened on the Upper/Departure Level while new restaurants and shops, and several new gates, have opened inside the terminal. The project is expected to be completed in spring 2018.
Terminals 7 & 8
This $573-million renovation promises to deliver a superior experience for customers at LAX. When completed, the project will refurbish virtually all the public space in the terminals and offer more of the conveniences and amenities that passengers value. The new-look terminals and gate areas will feature a modern design with relaxed and inviting spaces, including a variety of comfortable seating options and abundant charging stations for travelers’ electronic devices. The expansive ticketing lobby will incorporate the latest technology, such as self-tagging baggage kiosks. These technologies, along with an upgraded security-screening checkpoint, which includes new, automated lanes, will enable travelers to move quickly and efficiently from curb to gate. Seven lanes in the checkpoint, as well as a new United Club, are already in operation. The project is expected to be completed in early 2018.
Up-to-date construction alerts showing Central Terminal Area (CTA) roadway lane restrictions and sidewalk closures, as well as pedestrian walking map and helpful airline terminal finder, can be found at www.laxishappening.com. LAX has also joined with Waze, the world’s largest community-based traffic reporting app, to provide real time traffic information on conditions inside the CTA and on nearby roadways, and parking structure availability.
Staying up-to-date with all the airport activities is easy, too. Traffic alerts and current airport conditions are posted on LAX’s social media sites at www.Facebook/com/LAInternationalAirport and www.Twitter.com/flyLAXairport.
While the construction work continues, LAWA is committed to enhancing the overall airport experience and improve guest satisfaction through a new training initiative for its workers and other airport employees.
No doubt, these are exciting times for LAX and the Southern California region. While the modernization projects are extensive and challenging, they are successfully progressing with innovation, the highest of quality and on-schedule. This total transformation of LAX has been designed with you and the future in mind. The goal is to make LAX a premier travel destination that will be ahead of the curve for many years to come.