Groundbreaking ceremony held for expansion of LAX's Bradley Terminal

Rendering of expanded Tom Bradley International Terminal.
Rendering of expanded Tom Bradley International Terminal.
Patricia Nazario/KPCC

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The most expensive building project in Los Angeles municipal history breaks ground today, with construction officially beginning on the $1.55 billion Bradley West Terminal project at Los Angeles International Airport.

It will be one of the largest public works projects in L.A. history. The expansion is expected to create 4,000 construction-related jobs. The work is expected to be complete by 2013.

A superjumbo Airbus A380 jet from Qantas Airlines was parked behind dignitaries as speeches were made on the airport tarmac. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, city council members and 400 other airline officials and guests attended a groundbreaking ceremony next to the old terminal, which is normally closed to all but ticket-holders and employees.

The mammoth project will add 1.25 million square feet of building area to the Bradley International Terminal, which was completed for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic games. The existing building will be gutted in two phases, and a new concourse will be built to the west, on the land currently occupied by the twin taxiways between the northern and southern sets of runways.

According to plans released by Los Angeles World Airways, the cross-field taxiways will be shifted to the west, and will be spaced further apart, to accommodate wide new superjumbo planes like the Airbus A380. A second phase would see the construction of a soaring bridge over the new taxiways, to carry people-movers over to a proposed second concourse, on industrial land closer to the Pacific.

The new terminals were designed to evoke the nearby ocean, with soaring wave-shaped structures. The architects are Fentress Architects, who designed the award-winning new Denver International Airport.

New customs and immigration facilities will be built for incoming passengers, and new security screening areas for embarking people, LAWA said. New stores and restaurants will be added, which Los Angeles World Airports officials say will provide much-improved amenities for the 8.6 million passengers who use Bradley in a typical year.

The construction project will not affect all international passengers going through LAX, because 43 percent of international passengers use the other seven terminals. Last year, a total of 56.5 million passengers flying to and from U.S. and overseas cities went through LAX, the sixth-largest airport in the world.

Even adjusting for inflation, the project's cost makes it by far the most expensive in the city's history, easily outstripping the $23 million cost of the first Los Angeles Aqueduct from the Owens Valley, built from 1913-18. That project cost $362.5 million in inflation-adjusted currency.

KPCC's Patricia Nazario contributed to this report.