By Oren Peleg
LAX is one of the world’s busiest airports, but its transit infrastructure is a holdover from a bygone era, much to the mounting frustration of the millions of passengers forced to cope with its ever-worsening traffic and congestion.
But now LAX’s antiquated infrastructure is literally being transformed, and Local 11 brothers and sisters are on the ground laying the foundation for a bold, new transportation future.
When completed, this state-of-the-art $900-million transit hub, which began construction in early 2022, will provide a much-needed rail connection to LAX from local rail and bus lines.
This 9.5-acre complex will also sit next door to a brand-new Automated People Mover, which will connect passengers so they can transfer from public transportation directly to LAX’s terminals, eliminating the need for any cars.
Standing at the northern edge of this new hub, where Metro buses will pick up and drop off passengers, Local 11 foreman Aaron Cuellar pointed to a series of massive holes in the ground.
“These are two 5,000-amp switchboards that are only dedicated to the bus charging system,” Cuellar said. Eventually, a solar array will be installed “for solar net metering so that [LAWA] gets a discount on the electricity they’re generating.”
A Huge Point of Pride
The focal point of this hub is a 1,700-foot-long rail connection where L.A. Metro’s K Line will house a station. A large mezzanine above the platform will feature ticketing kiosks and a retail hub. Above this mezzanine is the APM platform.
It’s a massive project – one that will be seen by the world – which is an enormous point of pride for Local 11.
“The big push is for the World Cup coming two years before the Olympics,” Cuellar said. “We want it to look as good as the renders so people are impressed by it, because this is the next biggest thing [for L.A. Metro] since Union Station.”
L.A. Metro’s Eric Hildreth said the goal is to start running trains past the station as early as September, and he has been impressed by Local 11’s professionalism and commitment.
“They’ve got a can-do attitude out here, which is really important,” Hildreth said. “It’s helping to push the job.”
Sticking to that schedule is a challenge, Foreman and Local 11 member Justin Rodrigues acknowledged. “One of the main challenges, as it is in all other projects, is just coordinating with the other trades – sticking to an accelerated schedule.”
Rodrigues added that working on this site has had its unique rewards.
“The crew we have here gets along very well,” Rodrigues said. “We’re always in constant communication. Whatever they need, they don’t have that fear that they can’t talk to the foreman, or that they can’t talk to the general foreman. So, it’s a real sense of brotherhood and sisterhood.”
This Local 11 union sentiment of solidarity and fraternity echoes across the job site.
“Everyday, working with different journeymen, they all teach me a little something, little tricks to do the job faster, something different that I’m applying,” Local 11 second-year Antonio Santiago said.
For Inside Wireman Rudy Ramirez, “it’s the brotherhood I enjoy the most.”
“You spend a lot of time around the guys and girls, and being around them, building something, the satisfaction of completing something – it’s something you can really take pride in,” Ramirez said.
“All our jobs are a point of pride, but this is a high profile one,” Local 11 District 3 Business Agent Mike Costigan said. “Any time you talk about the MTA, that’s high profile. You talk to any of our members, and you can see it in their eyes.”
“Not only this project, but the whole LAX upgrade has provided years’ worth of work for our members,” said IBEW 11 Business Manager Joël Barton. “LAX is an international airport, and travelers from around the world will see the transformation of LAX into a world-class transportation hub. Having used the airport, I can already see the changes in the flow of traffic, ease of check-in, and retrieving your luggage. Maybe it’s not quite there yet, but it is a lot better than it used to be.”