The Los Angeles Board of Airport Commissioners has approved a $576 million contract for a major upgrade of the Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).

The contract was awarded Monday, September 18th, to Clark/McCarthy, a joint venture company based in Costa Mesa, for major interior renovations, installation of an in-line checked-baggage security system and a boarding gate for new large aircraft at the Tom Bradley International Terminal.

The contract still needs the approval of the Los Angeles City Council.

If approved, the contract would be considered the largest ever awarded for an individual project in Los Angeles City history, airport officials said.

The project is the first major upgrade to LAX terminals since 1984, when the one-million-square-foot Tom Bradley International Terminal was originally built, along with the double-deck roadway and concourses that connected airline ticketing counters to aircraft parking satellites.

Airport officials said that because the construction work will be performed while the terminal is fully operational, the project is considered to be one of the most complex among U.S. airports.

“The Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport is the first and last impression ten million annual travelers have of Los Angeles,” Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said. “This project will enhance passenger safety by reducing congestion in the airline check-in lobbies and on the curbside, while improving the travelers’ experience as they pass through LAX.

“The upgrades will improve customer service so travelers’ first and last impressions of our great city will be positive ones that will make them want to return.”

The project calls for interior improvements that include upgrades to the lower arrivals level for inbound international passengers, fire and life safety systems, electrical system and accessibility measures for passengers with disabilities.

Other interior improvements include restrooms, new elevators and escalators, climate control and ventilation systems and paging and signage, including dynamic video panels and digital signage that automatically updates flight information.

New information technology components will be installed to support the upgrades, as well as help improve passenger flow.

The project also includes renovations to the passenger boarding lounge and outside ramp area at Gate 123 on the north end of the terminal concourse to accommodate future large aircraft such as the Airbus 380.

The A-380 is designed to accommodate between 550 and 800 passengers, depending upon aircraft configuration, and is scheduled to begin service at LAX next year.

In addition, approximately 45,000 square feet will be added to the terminal to house a $140-million in-line baggage security screening system.

The new facility is expected to reduce passenger congestion in the airline ticketing lobbies by removing the many van-size checked-baggage security screening machines, airport officials said.

The new in-line system will allow passengers to check their luggage at the airline ticketing counters, from where the luggage will be conveyed to behind-the-scenes explosive detection machines and then transported to their flights.

The 38-month project is expected to begin early next year and be completed by March 2010, airport officials said. It will be funded by a combination of sources, including passenger facility charges, airline reimbursements, federal grants and airport revenues.

The 34 airlines at the Tom Bradley International Terminal served nearly ten million international travelers in 2005, or 57 percent of last year’s record-breaking 17.5 million international passenger volume. Total passenger volume at LAX in 2005 was 61 million.