Los Angeles International Airport and Delta Air Lines’s will finish ahead of schedule; rendering courtesy of Los Angeles World Airports.

Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and Delta Air Lines expect the $1.86 billion-Delta Sky Way modernization project to finish 18 months ahead of schedule, thanks to lower passenger traffic and Terminal 3’s temporary closure.

The acceleration saves $60 million from the project budget due to general site conditions, less phasing/enabling work and fewer financing costs, which is being allocated to enhance other areas of the program, says Los Angeles World Airports Chief Development Officer Bernardo Gogna.

The Sky Way project is part of the $14-billion LAX Modernization Program to prepare LAX for Los Angeles’ 2028 Olympic and Paralympic Games and updates and connects Terminals 2, 3 and the Tom Bradley International Terminal. The news came at a November 12 topping-out ceremony where project officials secured the final beam for Phase 1 of the project. The facility is now expected to open in mid-2023, instead of late 2024.

“Lower passenger numbers allowed Delta to reduce its flight schedule and fly out of Terminal 2 and close Terminal 3,” says Gogna. “By taking this step, the project could accelerate greatly and positions Delta with maximum gate capacity when passenger numbers grow again.”

The work includes Delta’s LAX central headhouse, a consolidated check-in lobby, security checkpoint and baggage claim facility as early as the first quarter of 2022. The overall facility will connect, after security, Terminals 2 and 3, which is currently only possible via walking or a shuttle bus. The project will also provide access to the LAX Automated People Mover, opening in 2023.

Gogna says LAX is finding efficiencies on most ongoing projects due to lower passenger numbers. “This includes being able to implement road closures for up to 24 hours at a time without impacting airport operations. We can also have more construction take place during peak hours, using double or even triple shifts,” he adds.

While slow passenger service is speeding things up at LAX, airports such as San Francisco International Airport (SFO) are seeing projects stalled. On November 9, SFO announced plans to postpone additional construction projects because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

SFO projects affected include the final phase of Harvey Milk Terminal 1, which will construct a new North Check-In lobby area. Originally slated for completion in April 2023, this phase will be postponed by at least six months. SFO already completed the first nine gates of Harvey Milk Terminal 1 in July 2019 and opened an additional nine gates and South Check-In lobby in May 2020.

The next phase that adds seven more gates and a post-security connection to the International Terminal is still on schedule for a May 2021 completion.

The airport will also delay a portion of the Courtyard 3 Connector project, which consists of pre- and post-security connecting walkways between Terminal 2 and Terminal 3, along with mixed-use office space. The connecting walkways are on track for October 2021, but the interior construction of office space will be postponed.

SFO says the slowdown also affects more than 20 smaller upgrades to terminal and support facilities. By postponing these projects, SFO will defer approximately $550 million of debt service resulting from issuance of Airport General Revenue Bonds, used to finance construction projects. In April 2020, SFO announced the postponement of the $1B Terminal 3 West project for at least six months.

Erica Berardi | ENR California