Construction began Monday on a $1.5 billion project to expand the international terminal at Los Angeles International Airport — a facility ranked one of the worst in the nation.
Upgrades to the Tom Bradley International Terminal will include new restaurants, gates and other passenger services, with work expected to be completed by 2013.
Construction wasn't expected to cause any immediate inconvenience to passengers but would likely prompt higher prices since funding will come from airport operating revenues, fees from airlines and passenger facility charges.
"LAX will no longer be the cheapest takeoff and landing airport in America," said Councilman Bill Rosendahl, whose district includes the airport. "It will be modernized, those costs will be passed on."
It was not immediately clear how much fees would be increased.
Last year, more than 30 airlines at the Bradley terminal served more than 8.6 million passengers.
The work is expected to create 4,000 constructions jobs at a time when Los Angeles is trying to compete against other West Coast airports as the gateway to Pacific Rim nations.
The project will include nine new gates to accommodate jumbo jets such as the Airbus A380 and Boeing 747-800; two concourses offering more than 1.25 million square feet (0.1 million sq. meters) of shops, restaurants and other passenger services; expanded customs and immigration facilities; and a pair of new corridors linked to domestic terminals so passengers with connecting flights won't have to go through two security screenings.
"Most of the construction is going to take place behind the scenes," airport spokesman Albert Rodriguez said.
The upgrades will bring needed improvements to the world's sixth busiest airport, which was ranked 19th among 20 large U.S. airports by 12,000 airline passengers.
The recent survey by J.D. Power and Associates found the airport received poor ratings for accessibility, terminal facilities, food and retail services, security screening process and overall customer satisfaction.
The international terminal has not undergone major renovations since it opened in 1984. A shortage of gates often forces passengers to take a bus to remote gates.
"LAX is always locked in combat to attract more international flights," said aviation consultant Jack Keady. "It's difficult to pursue new airlines when they face the possibility of having to bus passengers."