Getting on Track: Crew works on the LAX-Crenshaw rail line along Aviation Boulevard.

Getting on Track: Crew works on the LAX-Crenshaw rail line along Aviation Boulevard. Photo by Ringo Chiu.

While the $5 billion overhaul of Los Angeles International Airport looks set to improve transportation links in the long term, nearby businesses are worried about the traffic nightmares seven years of construction could cause first.

“Things are going to get worse before they get better,” said Laurie Hughes, executive director of Gateway to L.A., a business improvement district representing hotels, offices, retailers, restaurants and other interests around the airport. “We’re concerned about lane closures and emergency response time. There are going to be delays.”  

Businesses there anticipate nobody getting anywhere fast and intersection closures driving potential customers away.

“The businesses around LAX are going to be impacted as well as residences,” said Los Angeles City Controller Ron Galperin, adding that Los Angeles World Airports, the governmental agency that operates the city’s airports, needs to produce a plan to mitigate traffic during construction. “You can’t address every impact and fix every problem, but with a comprehensive plan you can address those problems to keep businesses alive and help them thrive.”

Construction projects typically cause problems for neighboring businesses, of course. But what makes the LAX project unusual is that it will affect businesses in a big area in an already crowded neighborhood and it will last not months or a year or two but seven years.

Transport links

Work on the megaproject will start later this year but is expected to take until 2023 to complete. The makeover involves the overhaul of Terminal 2, construction of a consolidated car rental facility and a 2.2-mile people mover that will link the airport to the new LAX-Crenshaw light-rail line.

Meanwhile construction of that line, which started in 2012 and is due to be completed in 2019, is already creating congestion.

Cozette Vergari, a partner at Century Boulevard law firm Vergari & Napolitano, said, “Occasionally they shut down lanes on Century Boulevard and major intersections. So we set our appointments around their schedule.”

So far, she said her 15 employees have been able to adjust.

“The construction changes employees’ routes to work,” she said. “But it impacts our employees more than our clients.”  

Still, to Vergari, the short-term pain is worth the long-term gain. She is looking forward to a time when the people mover will run near her office, allowing her clients to reach the area without a car.

“I see the positive development here,” she said. “We need improvement in terms of having transportation centralized and take out the congestion.” 

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