Construction is officially underway on a long-anticipated people mover system at Los Angeles International Airport that officials predict will ferry up to 30 million travelers per year between terminals.
Set to start running in 2023, the automated shuttle system will also connect to a future light rail station along the under-construction Crenshaw/LAX Line, finally creating a rail connection to the world's fourth-busiest airport.
“We can't have a truly world-class airport until we have public transit that brings people right to the terminals,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti at a groundbreaking ceremony for the project Thursday.
Garcetti called the project a “gateway” to the city and the country, stressing its importance as a means of reducing congestion in and around the airport as LA prepares to host the 2028 Olympics.
Los Angeles will pay contractor LINXS $4.9 billion to construct the project and to operate the system for the next 30 years.
Once complete, the 2.25-mile tram will complete a rail route to the airport that local officials have sought for decades—though it could be a circuitous one for many travelers. A passenger coming from Union Station would need to board two trains before transferring to the people mover.
Airport officials say trains will arrive every two minutes and have capacity for up to 200 riders across four shuttle cars.
The people mover is part of an ongoing overhaul of LAX. Already, multiple terminals have been updated and renovation work is underway on terminals four and five. A new concourse for the Tom Bradley International Terminal is also under construction.
All that work is bound to create additional headaches for airport-bound travelers in the coming years. Garcetti said ensuring that construction doesn't impact airport operations and the experience of passengers is a priority—but compared those efforts to performing open heart surgery on a patient "running a marathon."
County Supervisor Janice Hahn, whose district encompasses LAX, maintained that any construction delays would be more than worth it.
“In Los Angeles, the nine most terrifying words in the English language are ‘hey, can you give me a ride to LAX?’” said Hahn Thursday. “In a few years, our answer to that dreaded question will be ‘no, take Metro.’”