The modernization of Los Angeles International Airport took a major step forward Thursday with approval of the construction contract for a $1.25-billion midfield concourse that will add 11 passenger gates to accommodate growing air travel.
City airport commissioners also initiated preliminary planning and the environmental review for several projects included in the $4-billion ground transportation plan for LAX.
Among the proposals are a consolidated car rental facility in nearby Manchester Square and an automated people mover that would connect to passenger terminals, the rental car center and the planned station for Metro's Crenshaw light rail line.
The new concourse will stand between the north and south runways about 1,300 feet west of the Tom Bradley International Terminal. The project is exceeded in scale only by the ongoing $2.1-billion expansion of the Bradley, which is the centerpiece of LAX's modernization effort.
Airport commissioners awarded a $961.3-million design and construction contract to Turner/PCL, a joint venture that airport officials say offered the most competitive bid for the northern half of the satellite concourse. The southern portion will be handled later as a separate project.
"The 11 gates will be full as they are made available for operation," said Gina Marie Lindsey, executive director of Los Angeles World Airports, the operator of LAX. "Our expectation is that growth will take us there very quickly."
The nation's third busiest commercial airport is on track to handle more than 71 million passengers this year and exceed the previous peak of about 68 million in 2000.
Scheduled to be completed in 2020, the north concourse will include taxiways and a tunnel for passengers to reach the Bradley, where an annex will be added. In addition, Los Angeles World Airports will have the option of adding a baggage handling system and an extension with two more gates on the north end of the concourse.
Because of increasing costs to modernize and expand the Bradley terminal, Lindsey told commissioners that airlines would like to hold down the costs of the new midfield facility.
Airport records show that the initial estimate to complete the Bradley was about $1.4 billion in late 2009. Due to additions and change orders, the current estimate is more than $2.1 billion. That is in addition to a $737-million remodel of the original Bradley building that was finished in 2010.
"The airlines will be pushing us not to build an iconic structure like the Bradley," Lindsey said, adding that the midfield concourse will have a more functional, less elaborate design.
During discussion of the ground transportation plan, airport officials said the program should relieve traffic congestion in the central terminal area as LAX grows.
They said shuttles that now take passengers directly to the terminals might be required to drop off and pick up passengers at people mover stops outside the terminal area as well as the car rental facility in Manchester Square.
Airport officials also recommended that the people mover be built down the spine of the central terminal area rather than stop in front of each airline terminal. Passengers would board and exit at three stops on the roofs of existing parking structures.
"This program will transform how people travel to and from LAX in the future," said Sean Burton, the airport commission president. "We are committed to building a system that will relieve congestion, encourage transit use, and create a reliable, efficient and time certain arrival and departure experience."