If a recent industry showcase was any indication, expect the bidding to be intense when a request for qualified bidders goes out next month for the design and construction of a massive new terminal at Los Angeles International Airport.
Terminal 9, as the new facility is now called, would be a 1.4 million-square-foot facility on the east side of Sepulveda Boulevard, separate from the current main central terminal loop. The terminal itself would have anywhere from 12 to 17 gates: 12 if each must be wide enough to accommodate a wide-body (double-aisle) jet plane and 17 if all the gates are only wide enough for narrow-body (single-aisle) planes. There would be four levels, including one for ticketing/departures, one for baggage claim/arrivals and a separate level to connect with the people mover.
One of the main purposes of the new terminal is to eliminate the use of remote gates when all the existing terminal gates are filled with aircraft; passengers are then bused from those remote gates to a terminal.
This congestion eased somewhat when the 12 gates at the northern portion of the midfield satellite concourse opened in 2021 and will ease even further when the eight gates of the southern portion of that concourse open as early as 2025. But even after that concourse opens, remote gates may still have to be used if and when airport passenger counts return fully to pre-pandemic levels.
In terms of size, the planned terminal would be 40% larger than the north portion of the midfield satellite concourse. Airport planners estimate it could accommodate up to 7.2 million passengers a year.
Airport officials and planning documents have not spelled out the cost to design and build Terminal 9. However, they have given a total cost of more than $5 billion for Terminal 9 in combination with another planned new facility: the 1.28-million square-foot Concourse 0, which would be an extension of Terminal 1, now occupied primarily by Dallas, Texas-based Southwest Airlines Co.
The timing for construction start and completion for Terminal 9 is also largely unspecified, in part because that will depend on various approvals that would be needed. But there have been some clues. In support documents for a bond offering totaling $1.18 billion last August, airport officials said Terminal 9, Concourse 0 and a slate of other projects were scheduled to be completed by June 30, 2029.
High contractor interest
On April 14, Los Angeles World Airports held an industry showcase for Terminal 9, designed to brief the contractor community on the scope and nature of the work that would be required to design and build the terminal.
Such showcases are regular occurrences whenever a large project at LAX is getting set to go out to initial bid. They generally include not only the large infrastructure companies that aim to serve as the main design-build team, but also legions of subcontractors, both on the design/engineering side and on the materials/specialty construction front.
Officials with LAWA said this showcase drew more than 1,100 attendees, making it one of the highest-attended showcases in the airport’s history.
“The fact that LAWA’s Terminal 9 Industry Showcase had a turnout of over 1,100 attendees is a testament to our community and the world’s ongoing interest in being part of LAX’s transformation,” Justin Erbacci, LAWA’s chief executive, said in announcing the turnout. “Like our soon-to-be-open people mover train and (consolidated car rental) facility, Terminal 9 will make our world-class airport even more reliable, innovative and enjoyable, all while supporting our local workforce and contributing billions of dollars to the local economy.”
LAWA officials will soon see how much of this interest translates into actual bidding activity as the initial request for qualifications is set to hit the street next month.
Many steps lie ahead before a contractor can actually break ground on the terminal project. Once a list of qualified contractors is finalized, a request for proposals will go out and the formal bidding process begins. Meanwhile, a specific design must be chosen and then approved.
And all the while, this Terminal 9 project does face some opposition. The city of El Segundo and Service Employees International Union – United Service Workers West both filed comments two years ago opposing both Terminal 9 and Concourse 0; the city of El Segundo cited concerns about additional noise and traffic congestion, while the union cited pollution and health concerns.