Crews break ground on long-awaited station to connect LA Metro to LAX

Construction crews broke ground Monday on the long-awaited light rail station that will connect riders on the almost-completed L.A. Metro Crenshaw/LAX Line to the airport's currently-under-construction Automated People Mover.

"We are finally here to bring a train to the planes ... Angelenos have literally been waiting for this their entire lives," Mayor Eric Garcetti said.

The $898.6-million Airport Metro Connector Project is expected to be completed in 2024 and will include train platforms, a 16-bay bus plaza, a bike hub, a private vehicle drop-off zone and direct access to the LAX Automated People Mover, a 2.25-mile train system with six total stations that will connect people to their terminals and a car rental facility. That train system is expected to be ready for passengers in 2023. The Crenshaw/LAX Line is expected to be completed later this year.

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"Everyone traveling to or from LAX should have access to modern, reliable public transportation that gets them to their destination on time," Garcetti said. "The Airport Metro Connector is a historic step toward reimagining how travelers experience our airport -- a turning point that will be a source of jobs and economic growth, reduce congestion, and help our airport realize its potential as a world-class gateway to Los Angeles."

The connector station, which will be called the Aviation/96th Street Station, will also have an L.A. Metro customer service center, interactive information kiosks, public restrooms and commercial space. The station is being built to meet the criteria for a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Gold rating and will have 550,000-plus kilowatts of solar panels, native landscaping and electric bus charging stations.

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"What you're going to see built here isn't just another platform, it's not even just the biggest light rail platform in the Metro system. It is actually a station, it is a hub, it is a gathering place. There will be amenities, there will be a welcome center there, there will be restrooms there. That's a bit unusual for the transit system in Los Angeles," said Councilman Mike Bonin.

"This is going to be the front door to the airport and the transfer from mass transit to the airport. It's going to be an amazing thing. Today is just the beginning."

The project is funded partly through the sales tax raised by Measure R, a ballot measure passed in November 2008, and Measure M, a ballot measure passed in November 2016, Garcetti said.

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"This is one of many projects that Measure M -- the largest transportation initiative at the local level in American history times two – is doing throughout our county, including 15 transit lines that are either extending or building new, including the Crenshaw/LAX Line that will connect here and that will open very soon," Garcetti said. He added that the Metro Airport Connector project is one of 28 projects that the city is fast-tracking to be open by the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles.

State Senator Ben Allen spoke about growing up in Los Angeles and wishing that he could travel around the city on public transportation, the way he did as 12-year-old visiting London.

"I always just thought to myself, why don't we have this in our city. Wonderful Los Angeles, it's so pedestrian, the weather is so fantastic, why don't we have a system like that? Why aren't we part of the league of civilized cities that has a decent metro system," Allen said.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Holly Mitchell remembered that growing up in Los Angeles she never dreamed of a better system for getting to the airport because she didn't know any differently. That changed when she visited Atlanta.

"I landed at the Atlanta airport for the first time and heard about something called MARTA and that I could get on MARTA in the airport and go to my hotel. Mind blowing," she said.

She added that six months later, as she was working as a field deputy for State Senator Diane Watson, she heard Watson and then-Mayor Tom Bradley speak about the possibility of having an L.A. Metro line travel on Crenshaw Boulevard and connect to the airport.

In 1988, when Bradley was mayor, the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission studied the feasibility of having an L.A. Metro Line that connects to LAX, Garcetti said. The final plan for the project was adopted by the L.A. Metro Board of Directors on June 27, 2019.

"To be a world-class airport, we must create world-class transportation options for employees and our guests. This Metro connector will do just that," said Los Angeles World Airports CEO Justin Erbacci.

"The AMC station will also provide multiple connections to the Metro system," L.A. Metro CEO Stephanie Wiggins said, "and will help airport-area employees and travelers easily get to wherever they need to go in our region."

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