The commission that oversees Los Angeles International Airport voted Thursday to advance two major projects designed to modernize the airport and improve the passage of travelers.
The Los Angeles Board of Airport Commissioners awarded a nearly $1 billion contract for the design and construction of a new "Midfield Satellite Concourse." The concourse will add 11 gates at LAX, and the gates will be able to accommodate large aircraft like the Airbus A380.
The new 5-level concourse will be located 1,300 feet west of the airport's Tom Bradley International Terminal, currently undergoing a $2 billion expansion. An underground tunnel will connect the midfield concourse to the Bradley terminal.
"LAX is experiencing the fastest and greatest growth of any airport in the region, and there appears to be no cessation of it," said Jack Keady, an aviation consultant based in Playa Del Rey. "We've seen quite a few more foreign carriers coming into LAX in the past several years, so we want to have the appropriate number of wide-body international gates."
The airport is on pace to set a passenger record this year, topping 70 million travelers.
"It would appear from adding 11 more wide bodied gates that the airport is preparing itself for the 100-million passenger expectations in the future," Keady told KPCC.
Earlier this week, airport officials forecast that nearly 2.97 million passengers will pass through LAX during this holiday travel season - a 4.1 percent increase over last year’s 2.85 million actual passengers. The 14-day holiday travel period begins today and continues through Friday, January 2, 2015.
Turner/PCL, a joint venture, won the midfield concourse contract. Construction of the concourse is expected to be complete in 2020.
The Airport Commissioners also voted unanimously to move forward with a $4 billion plan for a new automated "LAX Train" that will help passengers move from airport terminals to a new Rental Car Center, different locations for pick-up and drop-off, and a planned station stop on Los Angeles Metro’s Crenshaw Line, now under construction. The vote sets the environmental review process in motion early next year, with construction expected to start in 2017.
“This is an important commitment to Los Angeles,” said Gina Marie Lindsey, Executive Director Los Angeles World Airports in a statement. “The Board’s decision means local residents and visitors to LAX won’t have to wait a generation to benefit from these improvements."
Last June, Los Angeles Metro's board of directors voted unanimously to move forward with its side of a plan that would give Los Angeles something other major cities like Paris and New York have: a transit rail connection to the major airport. L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, who currently chairs the Metro board, applauded the Airport Commission's vote.
“The automated train to LAX, consolidated Rental Car Center and new passenger check-in facility will not only save time for travelers, but it will also ease traffic at the airport, on our freeways and in the surrounding neighborhoods," Garcetti said.
While the rail connection has been on L.A.'s wish list for decades, Brett Snyder of the Cranky Flier blog says the planned Rental Car Center will make the biggest immediate impact. He says LAX's rental car locations are currently scattered in different places around the airport.
"Building this central rental car center that's now connected by a train to the terminal area is going to make a big difference for people who are coming into town to visit," Snyder said. "The train is helpful in terms of pulling rental car buses out of the central terminal area."
Airport officials have launched a web site on the planned LAX Train.