LAX for the Future

Major infrastructure projects can be a pain to get off the ground, but the rewards are worth the effort By: Kenneth Shapiro
Shapiro // © 2017 TravelAge West
Shapiro // © 2017 TravelAge West

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As a native of Los Angeles, I remember when the city’s plan to build a rail system was almost universally considered a mistake. “It’s too expensive.” “It doesn’t go anywhere.” “It doesn’t fit our ‘car culture.’” “What about earthquakes?” These were just a few of the reasons people gave for why the L.A. Metro would be pure insanity.

Now, nearly 30 years later, you still hear complaints — about construction delays or routes — but I think there’s widespread recognition that a modern metropolis needs a modern transportation system. Whether you were in favor of it or not, most people would now agree that L.A. is better off with a metro system.

In this issue’s cover story, “In It for the Long Haul” (page 16), we take a look at another massive infrastructure project. Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is the fourth-busiest airport in the world, and it’s in dire need of an upgrade. Whether your particular pet peeve is the constant traffic jam outside the terminals, the antiquated technology, the long waits on the tarmac or the chaos at the baggage carousels, LAX has long been an obstacle to overcome before one’s vacation starts. Now, the airport is finally getting the updates it needs to enter the league of other world-class gateways.

But as desperately as LAX needs these improvements, there certainly have been many obstacles to overcome in order to get the project underway. During President Donald Trump’s campaign, he talked specifically about the terrible state of our country’s “third world” airports. While he hasn’t acted on his infrastructure promises yet, it’s important for the travel industry in particular to hold him accountable to his campaign statements. Infrastructure upgrades can seem like pie-in-the-sky dreams during the planning stages, but these projects are responsible for real-world, tangible improvements once they are completed — and better airports can be a boon to travel. 

As the LAX project grinds along, I’ll be keeping one eye on the calendar. In 2024, when (hopefully) the Olympic Games come to L.A., I look forward to seeing all those visitors arrive at a new, state-of-the-art airport and ride around town on our “mistake” of a metro system.

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