American airports are often viewed as substandard, with antiquated facilities and poor design. Not one U.S. airport made the top 25 in the 2015 Skytrax survey of the world’s best airports — and Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) compared badly even among U.S. airports. Although LAX is the nation’s second-busiest airport and the world’s fifth-busiest, Skytrax ranks it a dismal 98th out of the top 100.
Last week, Deborah Flint, executive director of Los Angeles World Airports (which operates LAX), said that changes are “needed yesterday,” citing choking traffic, poor wayfinding, inconvenient transit connections and an overall poor experience.
She made the remarks at the kickoff of a transformative solution: a $5 billion infrastructure plan named the Landside Access Modernization Program (LAMP). The plan’s centerpiece is a two-mile long automated people mover (AMP) that will carry passengers from the terminals to a consolidated rental car facility and new transportation hubs with connections to the Metro transit system. More public parking and pedestrian walkways will also be built.
Currently all access into LAX is by road. Bottlenecks of buses, cars and shuttle vans are commonplace at the airport’s eight busy terminals. With a view to curbing this ever-worsening traffic, the new infrastructure improvements will enable future rental car customers to take the people mover to the rental car center, while other travelers will be able to meet shuttles and transit lines at two Intermodal Transit Centers. Passengers on the APM will only have to wait two to three minutes for a tram to take them to and from the main terminals.
LAWA determined that a Design-Build-Finance-Operate-Maintain (DBFOM) delivery method is best suited to two elements of the project. According to LAWA, public agencies throughout the nation and internationally have successfully used the DBFOM delivery method to build critical infrastructure projects. Often used by Public-Private Partnerships, the DBFOM system can result in cost savings, greater cost certainty and schedule acceleration, when compared to the traditional design-bid-build process.
Flint said that the goal is to complete LAMP “in no case later than 2023.” An important date considering L.A. is America’s choice to host the 2024 Summer Olympics.
All of this is happening amidst ever-increasing passenger numbers. In 2015, LAX saw a record 74.9 million passengers, up 6% from 2014. Officials expect that to increase to 95 million in the next two decades.