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$1.26B expansion begins at LAX int'l terminal

February 22, 2010 12:53:52 AM PST
Construction began Monday on a $1.26 billion project to expand the Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport.It's being called the largest public works project ever in Los Angeles, and it's the first big project at LAX since the 1984 Olympics. The reason it took so long was a lot of people had been fighting changes at the airport, worried it would bring more flights and congestion to the area.

For that very reason, officially, the project is called airport modernization, not expansion. The purpose of the project is to accommodate the newer and bigger jets that are on the way.

"This is the gateway, the capital of the Pacific Rim, the gateway to the East and the South, and here we should have a gateway that really welcomes people," said Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

It's called Bradley West, and there will be nine new gates for the new generation jets, such as the Airbus A380 and the Boeing 747-800.

The A380 has an upper and lower deck, so there will be new dual passenger loading-unloading bridges to get people on and off quicker. Because there will so many passengers on the new planes, there will also be two larger concourses offering more than 1.25 million square feet of shops, restaurants and other passenger services. There will also be new tarmac areas, expanded customs and immigration facilities, and a pair of new corridors linked to domestic terminals so passengers with connecting flights won't have to go through two security screenings.

The upgrades will bring needed improvements to the world's sixth busiest airport, which was ranked 19th among 20 large U.S. airports by 12,000 airline passengers.

The $1.26 billion project, the largest in the airport's history, is expected to create 4,000 construction-related jobs.

"Nearly 40 percent of the workers will be residents of the city of Los Angeles and other communities near LAX, billions of dollars in economic impact from international air travelers and a travel experience worthy of a world-class city," Villaraigosa said.

Money for the project comes from LAX's operating revenues, airline fees and passenger facility charges, so flying from LAX may get more expensive. It was not immediately clear how much fees would be increased.

"LAX will no longer be the cheapest takeoff and landing airport in America. It will be modernized, those costs will be passed on, and all of a sudden, Ontario will look good," said L.A. City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who is against airport expansion.

No money from the city's general fund will be used to pay for the project, which is expected to be completed by 2013.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.