Long Beach Terminal-concourse Construction Ready to Take Off

LONG BEACH -- Following a decade of tremendous growth in passenger volume through Long Beach Airport, officials are breaking ground Wednesday on a new $28 million terminal and concourse.

The project, approved by the City Council Dec. 14, includes replacement of the cramped bungalows now used as waiting rooms for fliers, new passenger security corridors, boarding lounges and restaurants.

The historic Art Deco main terminal will remain, though the building is getting a new roof, paint, furnishings and minor exterior upgrades.

"It's going to be a beautiful new building, much better suited and comfortable for customers, but it's not going to take away the 'boutique' feeling the airport is known for," said Mario Rodriguez, Long Beach Airport Director. "We also expect this to facilitate better flow of passengers, from check-in to screening to boarding the airplane."

The construction contract was awarded to Edge Development, a Temecula-based firm, who will be bound to a "local hire" labor agreement approved by the city in August.

The project labor agreement, or PLA, includes provisions that at least 30 percent of the work force be hired locally, an apprenticeship program for Long Beach students be adopted and that Edge agree to progressive wage and benefit packages favored by many trade unions.

The roughly 350 workers anticipated to be hired during the roughly 30-month construction phase also will benefit from an agreement that the contractor pay into a health care and workers' compensation fund.

In return, the city and airport receive a no-strike pledge, set work force costs and a clause preventing the project from running over budget or past its scheduled 2013 completion date.

Modernization is being paid for by recently purchased airport bonds, existing passenger fees and federal grants.

Rodriguez said Edge's contract bid came in nearly $4 million below the anticipated $28-million cost, allowing airport authorities to designate the remainder for upgrades to the existing baggage carousel, security screening areas, landscaping and canopies.

"It's a great environment for us to launch this because there's a lot of really good contractors out there with very few projects of this size available, so the competition helped reduce costs ... and allow us to use the savings for (additions) we were planning later on," Rodriguez said.

The main portion of the project will be a state-of-the-art $24- million concourse, which is certified under Leadership in Energy and Environment Design, or LEED, guidelines.

The 19,000-square feet of space currently used to house waiting rooms, restrooms and concessions -- housed in separate wings detached to the historic main terminal -- will be replaced by the 34,750-square-foot concourse, which will sit directly behind the historic main terminal.

The building will incorporate eco-friendly features that include solar panels, low-flow plumbing, large windows following the length of the terminal and a garden atrium, said Juan Lopez-Rios, the airport's lease manager.

Solar panels will eventually provide 13 to 20 percent of the airport's overall energy needs, Rodriguez said.

Work on the terminal comes as construction of a new $58-million parking garage is proceeding faster than planned.

The 1,989-space garage project, which began last December, is expected to open by September 2011, some three months earlier than anticipated.

The early finish date will save the city about $85,000 per month now paid for round-the- clock shuttles carrying passengers to a leased remote parking lot north of the airport on Lakewood Boulevard.

The remote parking lot lease costs the airport about $1.8 million annually.

When opened, the new garage will generate an estimated $350,000 for the airport every month, which will be used to pay off construction costs, Rodriguez said.

Garage construction included paving a new roadway to Lakewood Boulevard, the airport's main traffic artery.

Solar panels are also being integrated into the garage's superstructure, with some being used eventually as shading for vehicles parking on the rooftop, Lopez-Rios said.

The modernization beginning this week with a ceremonial groundbreaking Dec. 22 is part of a $140-million, three-phase airport improvement project scheduled for completion by 2013.

In addition to the terminal, garage and concourse improvements, the airport's jet tarmacs are getting a makeover, with underground electrical outlets that will one day allow waiting jets to plug in, eliminating the need for diesel generators used to run the jets' air- conditioning, baggage handling and other uses.

All the projects are designed to accommodate the airport's growing passenger volumes, which have surpassed 3 million annually, up from less than a million per year before the airport's main commercial customer, JetBlue Airways, arrived in 2001.