City Council approves $21-million increase to airport improvement project

Long Beach Airport will soon undergo another significant transformation that will restructure the pre-security portions of the facility after the Long Beach City Council approved a contract amendment for Phase II of terminal area improvements that will raise the original contract amount by at least $21 million.

While upgrades that were completed in 2013 overhauled the interior of the airport, replacing mobile trailers with a permanent concourse flush with local dining options, air conditioning and landscaping, the next phase will focus on the front of the airport.

The new $80-million contract, which could end up costing as much as $110 million when accounting for contingencies in the contract and soft costs, will create a new ticketing building and seismically retrofit the historic terminal building which currently holds the ticketing counter.

In the future, the rental car area will be pushed into the old ticketing area and passengers will be serviced by upgraded baggage claim areas and a new meet-and-greet area. Three elements of the project are expected to be deferred, including roadway improvements and a ground transportation center which will require a great deal of planning to restructure the entryway to the drop-off area.

The six portions of the improvement that the airport is expected to break ground on in the near future are estimated to be completed by the middle of 2022.

A base contract amount of $58.8 million was originally approved by the council in 2018 and awarded to Swinerton Builders, a firm from Los Angeles. However, airport staff said that market pressures have driven the cost up.

Airport Director Cynthia Guidry said that while production costs have risen about 12% nationally, the Los Angeles region has seen a spike of about 30%. Additionally, large-scale construction projects like the new football stadium in Inglewood and improvements being carried out at LAX and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Authority in advance of the 2028 Olympics have stretched resources thin, she said.

“The agencies are really competing for the same limited pool of construction resources,” Guidry said. “Our original estimates were targeting having six to seven bids per trade, but in reality we’ve only seen about two bids per trade.”

To cover the cost increase of the base contract the airport is expected to issue a $21-million bond. That will require a second City Council vote to approve it, something that could happen as soon as next month. The rest of the funding will come from airport revenue which is driven by passenger activity but also through parking fees and lease agreements the airport has with existing tenants.

In the structure of the bond the airport will have an opportunity to stop construction on the project and defer work if there’s a downturn in the economy or other unforeseen obstacles. If it exercises that option the airport would be required to pay 1.5% of the remaining authorized work.

Mayor Robert Garcia said the airport improvements have a “home run vision” in voicing his support for the new contract. He praised the airport for its recent run of being nationally recognized as one of the best airports in the nation and said the improvements would only add to its profile.

“It’s a great airport that I think we want to maintain its charm and its historic nature as well,” Garcia said.

The airport’s Phase II project is part of a citywide project labor agreement and is anticipated to create about 440 direct jobs.

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Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post.
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