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$1 billion expansion of LAX expected to win approval today


Although the airline industry remains in a deep slump, airport commissioners today are expected to approve $1.13 billion in construction contracts to revitalize facilities for international travelers at Los Angeles International Airport and build new gates to accommodate the next generation of large commercial planes.

In one of the most visible signs that the modernization of LAX is underway, the Los Angeles Board of Airport Commissioners is set to award two contracts to the Walsh Austin Joint Venture, which will handle the reconfiguration of the Tom Bradley International Terminal.

“The Bradley is the centerpiece of the current modernization program,” said Gina Marie Lindsey, executive director of Los Angeles World Airports, the operator of LAX. “The project will change how the airport looks to passengers and how international passengers arrive and depart. We are completely redoing the front door.”

Airport officials plan to add a million square feet of space to the terminal to make room for ticket counters, security checkpoints and passenger lounges, as well as expanded customs-and-immigration facilities. Restaurants and retail stores will occupy a grand central hall.

The so-called “Bradley West” project also calls for nine new gates that will handle the latest in large commercial airliners, such the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and the giant Airbus A380, which can carry more than 800 passengers depending on the seating arrangement.

Two of the gates are scheduled to open by January 2012. The overall project is expected to be completed by mid-2013.

Except for the current remodeling of the terminal’s interior, it has not had any major improvements since the 1984 Summer Olympics. The aging facility often receives poor to average marks from passengers and airlines.

Airport officials are proceeding with the Bradley project despite a severe national recession and the worst economic downturn in the history of the airline industry, which has led to the cancellation and postponement of orders for aircraft, including the new wide-body designs. As a result, major airports around the country have been postponing expensive improvement projects.

The latest forecasts by the Boyd Group, an aviation research and consulting firm in Colorado, predict that the number of passengers at LAX will decline from about 59 million in 2008 to about 55 million by the end of this year. The volume is expected to dip to 51 million in 2011 and recover somewhat by 2014. The passenger volume at LAX peaked at about 68 million in 2000.

Despite the economy, Lindsey said she is optimistic that the airport will be able to finance the project by selling bonds to investors in the months ahead. To cover the debt payments, she said, the airport must carefully manage its operations to save money, increase revenue from concessions and parking, push Congress to increase the passenger-facilities fee and gradually raise fees and rents for the airlines.

— Dan Weikel

Illustration: Architectural rendering of the Bradley West Concourse. Credit: Fentress Associates / Los Angeles World Airports

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Comments () | Archives (17)

"To cover the debt payments, she said, the airport must carefully manage its operations to save money, increase revenue from concessions and parking, push Congress to increase the passenger-facilities fee and gradually raise fees and rents for the airlines."

We have seen a progression at LAX where the traveler gets jammed with more and higher fees while the airlines increase ticket prices and the concessions become ridiculously overpriced. How does one approve the expenditure of billions of dollars when forecasts of traveler volumes show negative growth and the economic model is to gouge the fewer passengers for more fees and higher prices?

Glad to see some politicians are looking to the future instead of backwards.

Now if only they could find a way to connect a train to Union Station. They seem to missing it for some "unknown" reason.

And maybe even hook up Dodger Stadium, Disneyland, the Rose Bowl, USC, and UCLA along with the way.

This is truly one of the dumbest, most short-sighted things I've ever heard of. As passengers, we're nickled and dimed to death, something which makes me want to fly less-- and my idiot neighbors at LAX want to stiff us more? Talk about fiddling while Rome burns.

I typically use Long Beach or Orange County for Domestic Travel.... I do this because the LAX domestic terminals are just so horrible. If one has to switch airlines in LAX, it is the worst possible airport that exists to deal with that. The airport is so spread out and disconnected it seems it was built for everyone but the airline passenger who pays the bills through ticket fees. I've used the existing International Terminal and it is fine.... use the money to fix this airport...it's a dump and difficult to use for the domestic passenger. What a travesty using this money for an already working and sufficient International Terminal.

Re: Richard Gozinya, you are only looking at the very short term, things will rebound and once they do, LAX will be a leading airport in the nation. Everyone agrees that change is needed and this is a great expansion, renovation program. Also, keep in mind the jobs and money it will provide.

Re: Absolutely Vic, think long term. Also, it sounds as though you live next to the airport and you are a bit bitter. you chose to live next to an airport, remember that.

LAX needs to invest for the future and have a long-term plan. If you've ever been to Asia, you'll see amazing world-class airports (eg. Hong Kong, Singapore, Beijing and Shanghai to name a few). LAX is in dire need of a major upgrade to handle future growth. As a gateway to the US for many foreigners, it is absolutely embarrassing. SFO has already worked on a major expansion of their international terminal. It's time LAX did the same in order to prepare and plan for the future. The expected $1 billion expansion is sorely needed.

I thought California was in debt???

Bradley may have had no renovations since 1984, but the rest are more like 1954. The bulk of the traffic and fees come from domestic flights, why should international get the shiny new suit? I fly out of LAX 20 times a year, baggage is always 25+ minutes (T2, T4, T6/7), few concessions, small waiting areas with old, ripped up seats and washrooms that look and smell like outhouses.

Whatever you do someone is going to complain. Lets have zero taxes and an infrastructure like Borat's home country. Come on people you need a decent infrastructure and yes you are going to have to pay for it. LA's future economy could seriously benefit from Asian (Chinese, Japanese, Korean) tourism. A decent terminal to greet them is one of many infrastructure improvements needed to achieve that goal.
Have the current complainers seen the int terminal? It is seriously in need of an upgrade.

No taxes = no infrastructure improvement = slow rot

It's a pretty good time to start a project like this. Interest rates are low, and unemployment in construction is high, so it's the best fiscal situation we could hope for. The only negative is that L.A. and Calif. are terrible credit risks, so we can't get the best interest rates possible. We also need real tight oversight on this budget.

When the business cycle rebounds, international travel to Asia will become pretty significant, particularly when we try to figure out how to pay our debts to China.

putting the LAX ambassadors on the outside of TBIT might make a difference. With the current construction there is a major crowd control problem at the arrival exit. They are stacked up 4-5 deep on the inside which adds to the congestion. The passengers need assistance when the get to the street where to go. That makes too much sense to me.

This is the most ridiculous thing I've heard of!!! There is no need for this, there is only want. There are many other uses that the city can do with this money. The public transportation in this city is impossible; especially now when Santa Monica is trying to force the puplic into using it...other cities will be next. I would love for LAX to get an upgrade but be smart and use the money were it's really needed.

Some people are confused.

Julie: LAX is not owned by the State Of California. The state's fiscal situation is separate from LAX.

Others: You're probably the types who complain about everything. You really do have to keep the long-term in mind. This is a very good move by LAX.

One minor point of clarification in this interesting piece. The Boeing 787 is slightly smaller, fuselage diameter wise, that the present 777 or 747 series, so it's nowhere nearly the size of the Airbus 380.

Presumably the 787 could be accommodated by existing infrastructure, while of course the A380 can't. But improvements to Bradley will be a great step forward. 1,000,000 square feet around 22 acres. That's a lot of space!

Great. So we're all going to get fleeced with higher parking fees and high concessions prices so LAX can expand for a shrinking passenger base? Truly poor planning and bad management.

Re: Lana, what are you talking about? no need for this? have you been to LAX? Not sure what you mean in regards to your comment about Santa Monica forcing people on public transportation, but with the passage of Measure R, the federal grants, and eventual state matches, LA is doing more about public transportation than any other city in America. A new rail line is opening next month, another next year and construction is underway on the extension of the BRT in the valley with much more to come.

To all the naysayers, get out and get some perspective. We are way behind asian and European countries when it comes to infrastructure, but at least LA is headed the right way with investments in Public Transportation, high speed rail and the airport.

A billion dollars? With a 'B'? No, really. A billion dollars? With air travel decreasing and a recession? Really? And they admit that it won't increase capacity at all? REALLY? Roll up the damn airstairs and park 'em in a field. A BILLION DOLLARS !? AM I THE ONLY ONE THAT THINKS THIS IS INSANE !


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