Long Beach Airport is expected to break ground on roadway improvements that will add lanes of traffic and pedestrian safety elements like crosswalks and ADA-accessible curbs outside its historic terminal building next year, city officials said.

The Long Beach City Council voted Tuesday night to approve a $12.5 million contract to complete the improvements, which could start as soon as January 2024 and last through September 2024.

Stephan Lum, an engineering officer with the airport, told the council that the project would increase sidewalk space in front of the terminal building, create six lanes of traffic, two of which would be for loading and unloading, and add a crosswalk on either side of the building.

The current median that separates the two drop-off areas is also going to be replaced with a more uniformly shaped and larger island that will be better equipped for passengers with disabilities.

Kate Kuykendall, a spokesperson for the airport, said Wednesday that most of the work is expected to be done at night and the project is going to be completed in phases, with one lane of traffic in each direction being available during construction.

A rendering of what the new pick-up and drop-off area will look like at Long Beach Airport after a roadway improvement project is completed in 2024. Photo courtesy city of Long Beach

Still, the airport is expecting the project to affect traffic, and officials will be putting out information on the airport’s site to advise travelers of any delays that might be caused by the construction and to allow travelers to better plan for their arrivals or departures.

“There will definitely be disruptions, but we hope it will be worth it in terms of improving long-term traffic conditions in front of the terminal area,” Kuykendall said.

Kuykendall said access to the rental car lot and parking structures is expected to be maintained during construction.

The changes are part of a larger overhaul of the airport that included the construction of a new ticketing building, which opened in April 2022, a new baggage claim area that opened in April of this year as well as the historic preservation of the terminal building where rental car services will be shifted in the coming months.

Airport officials are also looking to fill the restaurant space on the second floor of the terminal building where the former Legends of Aviation once operated before closing in 2014.

Upgrading Donald Douglas Drive and Barbara London Drive, the two roads that run through the airport complex, was initially put off because of the COVID-19 pandemic that largely shut down air travel in January 2020 and ate into the airport’s ability to pay for Phase II of the airport improvements because airport revenue dried up.

While airport traffic has been above pre-pandemic levels in recent months, the airport will pay for a majority of the roadway improvements through a $10.6 million federal grant it received last year. The rest is expected to come out of other revenue generated through airport fees.

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Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at jason@lbpost.com or @JasonRuiz_LB on Twitter.