Enabling Projects Pave the Way for Extensive Landside Improvements at Los Angeles Int’l

Enabling Projects Pave the Way for Extensive Landside Improvements at Los Angeles Int’l
Paul Nolan
Published in: 

Airport projects generally fall into two groups: “sexy” projects, such as new terminals or faster baggage handling systems, and enabling projects that are important but far less tangible for passengers and guests. 

As a major airport located in a congested metropolitan setting, Los Angeles International (LAX) has a long list of both types of projects in the works. Currently, it is in the midst of a $14.3 billion capital improvement program with many high-visibility upgrades. Major components include an automated people mover train, a consolidated rental car facility and desperately needed upgrades for intermodal transportation such as a new four-story parking structure, streamlined access to taxis and shuttles and a more user-friendly area to pick-up and drop-off passengers. 

These are definitely projects that passengers will notice and appreciate. However, they also require a significant amount of unsexy prep work—the equivalent of spending a full mortgage payment on a new clutch for your car (but on a much grander scale, of course). Even if the public doesn’t gush about the enabling work, airport officials know its value. 


Project: Landside Enabling Projects

Location: Los Angeles Int’l Airport

Total Anticipated Cost: $634.9 million 

Funding: Airport revenues 

Scope: Extensive roadway work with new wayfinding, utility upgrades & other elements to facilitate construction of automated people mover, new ground transportation facility & additional parking

Phase 1: 2017-spring 2020

Design Builder: Myers & Sons-Griffith 

Phase 2: Construction slated to begin 1st quarter of 2021 & last 5 yrs.

Design Builder: Skanska

Jake Adams, deputy executive director of the Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) Landside Access Management Program (LAMP), fully appreciates the importance of these “crawl before you walk” projects.

“They are the pieces of the puzzle that allow all of the other pieces to integrate,” Adams says.

LAWA is a proprietary department of the city of Los Angeles that operates LAX and Van Nuys Airport (VNY) without taxpayer funding. The vast majority of funding for improvements for both facilities comes from aeronautical and nonaeronautical revenue plus grants from the federal Airport Improvement Program and other agencies. 

In 2019, LAX served nearly 88.1 million passengers, with an average of 700 daily nonstop flights on 72 commercial airlines. Currently, the airport is preparing for extra traffic associated with the 2028 Summer Olympics, which will be held in Los Angeles. 

Big Batch of Alphabet Soup 

LAMP is the acronym for the $5.5 billion effort to relieve landside congestion and improve travelers’ experience at LAX. In addition to the people mover, consolidated rental car facility and intermodal transportation facilities, the program includes extensive roadway improvements adjacent to the airport. 

LAWA divided the massive work into two subsets of enabling projects. The first phase, which began in 2017, was completed last spring. Phase 2 is currently underway and is expected to span the next five years. The first phase is known as LULEP (short for Los Angeles World Airports Utilities and Landside Access Modernization Program Enabling Projects). 

LULEP included 37 infrastructure projects that were necessary to prepare the LAX area for construction of the people mover and other improvements for landside transportation. The three-year LULEP phase was completed in May 2020 at a cost of $300 million.

Key projects included relocating the Bob Hope USO center to a permanent facility in the airport’s iconic Theme Building. The first phase also involved demolition of buildings in the neighboring Manchester Square area, where the new car rental facility will be built. Myers & Sons-Griffith, a joint agreement between two California-based contracting companies, served as the design builder for LULEP. 

The remaining phase, RUE (short for roadways, utilities and enabling), includes 16 projects slated to cost $334.9 million. Construction of these projects is scheduled to begin in the first half of 2021 and last five years. Key components of this phase include a major roadway extension and improvements to freeway access ramps to help connect the airport to the Los Angeles Metro Rail system.

“When we first started this, we went to the board and executed the LULEP project for $300 million,” explains Adams. “At that point, we didn’t have any of our developers on board; we didn’t have any of the designs for the future projects done; we barely had an environmental document.” This was truly an enabling contract. Now we’re focused on the pieces of the puzzle that make all of those big projects work together.”

Fast forward three years, and construction of the people mover, consolidated rental car facility and intermodal transportation facilities are underway. The automated people mover is a 2.25-mile rail system that will connect the airport’s passenger terminals with the intermodal transportation facilities and car rental center, and also provide travelers access to the Los Angeles Metro Rail system. The Intermodal Transportation Facility-West is on track to open this summer; the people mover train and car rental facility are scheduled for completion in 2023.

“De-Risking” the Main Projects

Clint Myers, project executive for Myers & Sons-Griffith, notes that enabling projects completed during Phase 1 “de-risked” the larger projects to come, such as completing the people mover system and consolidated rental car facility. Clearing away and relocating utilities, demolishing buildings and generally paving the way for the future projects will prevent unwanted surprises and costly delays during subsequent construction, he explains.  

Phase 1 was executed via a combination of two common project delivery methods: progressive design build and construction manager at risk. The first involves the design-build team during the earliest stages of project development to promote collaboration between the facility owner, the designer and the contractor. The second includes a commitment from the construction manager to deliver the project within a guaranteed maximum price (with allowances for reasonably inferred items or tasks). It is designed to provide project owners with more cost control from the outset by placing responsibility for coordinating the project and managing costs in the hands of the construction manager at risk. 

“When we bid on Phase 1, we didn’t bid on a project in the sense that we gave them a price. We gave them a fee, and that was all they had,” explains Myers. “The only scope of work that we had was in the procurement document, where they listed a bunch of projects by name. There was no set of plans. We’re starting to see that more and more, but that was definitely a unique aspect of this project.”

In Myers’ opinion, the hybrid project delivery method was exactly what LAWA needed to achieve its longer-term timelines. “They had to go, go, go, and they needed a contractor they felt comfortable with to deliver projects for them,” he comments. “This concept of putting a contract out in front that clears conflicts is a great concept. I think it saved millions of dollars for LAX at the end of the day.”

As it turned out, Myers & Sons-Griffith designed some Phase 2 elements because the team was running out of time and budget to complete them under the Phase 1 contract. Because the company had a hand in designing Phase 2, this precluded them from bidding to lead that construction work.

Steering Phase 2

As the design build firm selected for the RUE phase of the project, Skanska will direct preconstruction and construction services. It was also select and manage subcontractors for the various roadway, utility and other enabling projects. 

Given the nature and scope of the work, LAWA set aside $37 million on top of the original $300 million contract for addressing unanticipated needs.

“One of the things we’ve learned is we don’t know everything that we need to know when we go out with these contracts,” Adams relates. “As much planning and foresight as we put into them, there is always something that comes up. These are hugely complex projects, and the interfaces between these projects are equally complex. What we’ve been able to do is create vehicles within these contracts so we can add unidentified projects and enable them to be accomplished.”

The RUE phase includes extensive wayfinding upgrades at the terminal and on the roadways adjacent to the airport. Skanska Project Executive Robb Fonkalsrud notes that wayfinding is squarely in the company’s wheelhouse. 

One key objective is to eliminate congestion at the central terminal. The roadway work is designed to improve traffic flow; construction of the intermodal transportation facilities will provide LAX the opportunity to remove shuttles, taxis and other for-hire ground transportation from the terminal area; and the automated people mover will connect travelers with the city’s light rail system, thus reducing the number of cars that will be at the airport.

The most expensive components of the RUE phase will be extending 98th Street to the 405 freeway and improving the associated access and exit ramps. They will also produce the most noticeable improvements for regular LAX users, notes Adams. Completion of the full landside access program will significantly enhance passengers’ travel experience, he adds.  

Looking ahead, Adams hopes that there will be little time to stand back and admire the landside accomplishments after passenger traffic rebounds from COVID-era declines. “We’re an airport,” he muses. “We’re never finished, it seems.” 

Phase 1

The Utilities and Landside Access Modernization Program included 37 individual projects: 

  • installation of fencing at Manchester Square to close it off from the public
  • building new public parking lot to replace lot displaced by other LAMP construction
  • widening Central Terminal area service road
  • building new/replacement Bob Hope USO facility to accommodate APM construction
  • installation of fencing at Belford Square to close it off from the public
  • constructing and reconfiguring Parking Lot C to facilitate LAMP construction sites
  • constructing new access ramp within parking structure 4 
  • relocating waterline in Central Terminal Area to prepare for APM
  • demolishing Manchester Square structures to prepare site for ConRAC construction
  • relocating Metro City Bus Center (flipped it from its previous location parallel to 96th St. to perpendicular to 96th St.)
  • relocating Avis Rental Car
  • building vehicle storage and bus lots for Hertz Rental Cars
  • demolishing Travel Lodge to clear the way for 98th St. extension and ConRAC construction
  • misc. property security demolition
  • relocating 24-inch reclaimed water pipe 
  • constructing new Jetway Blvd. to provide future access to ITFW
  • new 98th St. Scattergood 1 – LADWP infrastructure relocation
  • closing Jenny Ave. to the public
  • completing early 98th St. utility works
  • constructing new 98th St. bypass road to facilitate construction while still maintaining access for vehicles going north and south on Aviation Blvd.
  • installing new Westchester electrical ductbank
  • undergrounding of overhead electrical services new 98th St. Scattergood 2 – LADWP infrastructure relocation
  • relocating Airport Police training facility 
  • Belford Square Hertz parking lot
  • demolishing VIP Tours building
  • relocating Delta hangar’s closed-circuit TV 
  • constructing new entrance/exit to Lot C at 96th St.
  • constructing new 48-inch water trunkline
  • demolishing Reliant building

Phase 2 

Key roadway, utilities and other enabling projects will include:

  • new signage and wayfinding for LAMP facilities (2 phases)
  • improvements to Sepulveda Blvd. closed-circuit traffic signal 
  • improving intersection at La Cienega Blvd. & Century Blvd.  
  • 12-inch water line on La Cienega Blvd.
  • improvements to the  I-405/ La Cienega Blvd. on- & off-ramps
  • work on the 98th St. sewer
  • moving overhead communications line for Charter Communication underground
  • new 98th St. 4.8 kV duct bank
  • new 98th St. 12-inch domestic water pipe
  • new 98th St. recycled water
  • new 98th St. 108-inch stormwater drain
  • temporary road for VIP Tours Metro G shuttle
  • closed-circuit TV for south employee parking lot
  • new 34.5 kV duct bank
  • construct 2nd phase of 4.8 kV duct bank 
  • relocate city of Inglewood fiber optic line
  • work associated with the new Receiving Station-X, which will help power the new facilities 
  • recycled water extension project
  • replacing  Central Terminal Area chilled water & LT hot water pipe
  • replacing Central Terminal Area domestic water pipe 
  • fire water for Terminal 5.

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