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After 27 Years, LAX May Be Rejoining The Jetset With $4 Billion In Improvements

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After a prolonged political purgatory and departure into disrepair, LAX, with aspirations of again becoming the west's best international airport, is looking to spend $4 billion to upgrade utilities, expand taxiways for wide-bodied aircraft already in service, and make modernization improvements to the Bradley International and several domestic terminals.

These improvements would mark the "first major expansion of passenger facilities since the Tom Bradley International Terminal was built for the Summer Olympics 27 years ago," according to the LA Times.

"We want to do in three years what other airports have done in seven or eight," said Los Angeles airport chief Gina Marie Lindsey, who was hired four years ago to get languishing modernization efforts moving. John L. Martin, the veteran airport director hailed for remodeling San Francisco's airport, says that "any competitive advantage we had in terms of facilities on the international side will be going away" with the Bradley West project, now being built. It is to house a grand hall filled with upscale restaurants, posh lounges and luxury boutiques.

The addition would eliminate having to bus passengers to the immigration processing area and will include an expanded customs area, new concourses, new gates, and 1 million additional square feet of floor space.

Other pending projects include a new concourse linked to the main terminal via a steel-and-glass sky bridge, an elevated tram to other terminals and a station to "link the entire airport to the growing regional rail network."

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Lindsey acknowledged that the ambitious modernization schedule will rely on meeting upbeat passenger projections and avoiding another economic downturn, a terrorist attack on the nation or hikes in fuel costs and ticket prices. "The other projects will depend on how much the airport grows," she said, "and how much we can pay down our debt."

The airport sold $2 billion in bonds to help finance the current renovations and the debt will reportedly be paid "with fees charged to airlines, revenue from concessions and charges added to the cost of tickets."

Current forecasts suggest the number of passengers at LAX will increase from 59.1 million to between 62 million and 68 million by 2014.