LAX took one of the first major public-facing steps toward its $14 billion modernization dreams with the release of Los Angeles World Airports' Draft Environmental Impact Report on Thursday. The final EIR and its potential approval could come by the end of this year at the earliest, with another round of environmental assessments due next year. If all that goes according to plan, construction could begin in late 2017 and wrap up by 2023—just in time for LA's Olympic dreams.
Much of the report focuses on the already familiar addition of the Automated People Mover (APM) and its connection with a new parking, drop-off and pick-up area just outside of the central terminal area. Farther to the east, the APM will connect with the under-construction Metro Crenshaw Line as well as a consolidated rental car hub.
We should note that these are not necessarily final designs. At this early stage of the draft environmental impact report, each image comes with the disclaimer: "Conceptual drawing for illustrative purposes only."
In addition to the people mover, LAWA is outlining plans for improved pedestrian connections with the airport, including a new network of bike lanes and a re-imagined Century Boulevard.
The design language of the renovations and additions seek to unify the airport with an aesthetic that complements but doesn't mimic the existing structures—so you can expect clean, modern lines but not patterns that rip off the light pylons or the Theme Building.
Speaking of the Theme Building, the Jet Age structure is at the center of LAWA's outlined preservation efforts. Though there's yet to be a specific plan or timeline for the 1961 landmark, LAWA will commit itself to a vision "that maintains controlled public access to the building's atrium, lobby, former restaurant space and observation deck." Potential new uses for the space include a restaurant, museum or event space.
In addition, Hangar One, the first building to open at the airport in 1929; the 1961 Airport Traffic Control Tower, a multi-story tower just inside the entrance to the automotive loop; and three other minor historic structures will remain preserved within the terminal. Though the mosaic tunnels that connect the gates to baggage claim in most terminals are not specifically eligible as historic resources, any construction projects that would affect them "may warrant special planning consideration." Outside the terminal area, the Proud Bird will be rehabilitated and submitted to the city as a Historic-Cultural Monument.
One fascinating historical aside we picked up from the EIR: We often associate the Sepulveda Tunnel between the 105 and the terminal area with soul-sucking traffic, but LAWA outlines its history in the preservation section of the report. When Pan American Clipper planes began service to Hawaii in the 1950s, the massive luxury airliners needed more runway clearance. Sepulveda Boulevard was rerouted to the west but the planes still needed more room. So there actually used to be a gate that would swing open once or twice a day to extend the runway across Sepulveda Boulevard. The idea seems insane today, and it certainly must've been back then as well; by 1953, the $3.4-million tunnel opened in its place.
You can dig through the entire draft EIR here, though we suggest flipping the Los Angeles World Airports CEO Deborah Flint's Reddit AMA for a more concise summary of some of the changes and challenges at LAX.
The public comment period will remain open until October 31; you can leave comments online or attend a community workshop on October 15 (Senior Center at Westchester Recreation Center, 7000 W Manchester Ave, 9:30am-12:30pm) and October 19 (Flight Path Learning Center and Museum, 6661 W Imperial Hwy, 6-8:30pm).
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