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Upgrades at LAX International Terminal: Is LA Ready to Compete Globally?

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When it comes to flying into Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), Peter is quite familiar with the travel hurdles: walking long distances between terminals, not enough Customs and Border protection officers to clear incoming international passengers, not enough gates to handle the traffic currently flying into the airport, and security clearance rope lines that look more like draconian cattle pens in some terminals.

While U.S. airports struggle to measure up to their international competitors, LAX, the world’s sixth busiest airport, is finally undergoing some much-needed changes designed to help hold its own on a global scale. Yesterday saw the unveiling of the New Tom Bradley West International Terminal designed by Fentress Architects, who built the Denver International Airport and Incheon in Korea.

A $1.9 billion effort saw the launch of the New Tom Bradley West International Terminal, with 150,000-square-foot Great Hall. The terminal will house over 60 shops and dining options with 22 local shops including L.A. brands like Kitson, Fred Segal and Umami Burger. In addition to shopping and entertainment, the gates will have updated board technology like computerized boarding bridges and laser docking.

The Tom Bradley upgrade is part of LAX’s overall $4.11 billion renovation that is taking place over the next five years and adding 4,000 construction-related and 2,000 permanent jobs.

Phase I of the renovation also included the revitalization of the Central Terminal Area (CTA), the roadway area between the parking structures and the eight terminals. This phase, handled by AECOM, created a dramatic approach by integrating of architecture, lighting and graphics. Expect a light ribbon to define the elevated roadway, three-dimensional super-graphic terminal identifiers and 91 white sculptural light poles. Beyond just design, two new escalator and stair canopies will link the arrival and departure levels. The arrival level will also be renovated to deliver more light and space for the traveler’s comfort and convenience.

AECOM principal and LAX Enhancements architectural project director Jed Zimmerman noted,

“The LAX Enhancements will dramatically improve the LAX traveler’s experience with a design that captures the spirit of Los Angeles… [and] functions as a kit of parts that can be easily phased and built upon for all future enhancement projects.”

By Lily J. Kosner for