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Transforming the Arrival Sequence at LAX

by Balfour Beatty

April 28, 2023

Transforming the Arrival Sequence at LAX

It’s been said that a team is only as strong as its weakest member. The effort to complete Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)’s Automated People Mover (APM) project has proven just how strong a team can be when the members advocate for and support each other.

Under the guidance of Project Manager Anvesh Motadoo and Superintendent Tatiana Samuel, the team took on the colossal task of constructing six pedestrian walkways over World Way, LAX’s main road. In just over 16 months, the team placed 3,662 tons of steel and connected six existing terminals, meeting every deadline along the way. Through meticulous planning, scheduling, coordination and using the latest technology, the team built pedestrian bridges that are not only beautiful but will forever change the experience of traveling to and through LAX.

Assembling the A-Team

Anvesh and Tatiana were first paired together to work on two pedestrian bridge demolitions over World Way before being tapped to build the pedestrian walkways that connect the APM train system to all terminals and parking garages. As they entered into the planning stage of the project, they knew they needed to gather a team of experienced individuals to complete the mammoth task ahead of them.

“We didn’t form the team all at once, it was a much more organic process,” says Anvesh. “We added teammates with special skills as construction progressed.”

The dynamic duo became a team of seven, preparing to undertake the complicated process of building the pedestrian bridges.

[From left to right: Assistant Superintendent Everton Phillip, Superintendent Martin Garcia, Assistant Project Manager Rafael Lopez, Project Manager Anvesh Motadoo, Assistant Superintended Michael Finnell, Project Engineer Fernando Trevino, Superintendent Tatiana Samuel.]

The team’s first task was erecting the “Bridge to Nothing” as they called it—a bridge that spans over World Way, connecting two ongoing construction projects. The team collaborated with the general contractor, constructing the terminal core that receives the bridge and found an opportunity to begin the first bridge in January of 2021, six months ahead of the contractual schedule. This allowed for scheduling future bridge erection around LAX’s peak travel seasons and set the tone of confidence and collaboration between all parties at the airport.

“We built a lot of trust with our partners on the project,” she says. “We were clear with them about scheduling needs and potential problems, and we kept a constant stream of communication to ensure that nothing got overlooked in the process.”

A Common Goal

While planning the construction of the first pedestrian bridge, the team recognized a need to define a common goal. Together, they landed on an inspiring, unifying phrase that they felt described their mission: Changing the Skyline of LAX.

“The pedestrian walkways are obvious visual representations of the improvements we and our partners have made to LAX,” Anvesh explains. “Our role in this project is extremely important, and we knew we needed to recognize the significance of the work we’ve been entrusted to perform. This is something big that is going to outlive us all, so let’s do it right.”

The bridges cross World Way several times. Sitting 40 feet in the air and with the total combined length of 3,642 linear feet, the walkways are impossible to miss. Beyond their visual impact, these structures will completely revolutionize the travel experience at LAX. While the original horseshoe design of the airport requires up to half a mile of  pedestrian travel time from one terminal to the other, the bridges provide a direct link between the North and South sides of the airport with 18 moving walkways and 13 elevators.

Coordinating Perfection

Coordination and precise scheduling were paramount to the success of the pedestrian walkways. Prior to beginning construction, the team spent approximately 18 months on design coordination. One unique element of the walkways is that, rather than being part of the design of a new building, the team had to coordinate six different connections to existing terminals. This required additional preparation as well as increased collaboration with several design teams.

Beyond coordinating crews and trade partners, the team also worked in an active airport, which added to the complexity of scheduling. To plan major work, Tatiana and Anvesh coordinated with LAX Operation teams, multiple airlines, terminal operations managers, fellow contractors on the project, airport police and other security staff. The team spent 10 to 14 weeks planning for the erection of each of the bridges to limit disruptions for all parties involved.

Crews worked overnight, during the least active hours for the airport, to erect the partially prefabricated bridges. Through meticulous coordination and communication, the team successfully hit every deadline.

Team Synergy

Tatiana and Anvesh’s dedication to the project was powerful and spread throughout the rest of the team. The pair began their work on the project with high achievement, and that was an expectation the larger team fully embraced. They encouraged each other, pushed each other and leaned on one another for support.

In addition to learning to work together, the team also got to know each other on a personal level. With months of overnight shifts, the risk of burnout was high, and the group recognized that they needed to rely on each other to complete the project and support their mental health and wellbeing. Their approach was different from the beginning, even in the way they set up the onsite office trailer like a living room.

“We included a couch and plants in the office to make it feel more like home,” says Tatiana. “We’re on the jobsite more than we’re at home, so it was important to us to create an environment where everyone could gather comfortably. On a long, stressful job like this one, being able to plan and hold meetings in an inviting space was vital for morale.”

The team also made sure to celebrate successes along the way. Many construction projects hold “topping out” ceremonies, where project teams, clients and partners sign the final piece of structural steel on a project and celebrate its placement. The pedestrian walkway team held their own topping out ceremony for each of the six bridges, celebrating with their team as well as others who made each milestone possible like airport police and joint venture partners.

“All of this was such a team effort,” says Anvesh. “Our A-Team of seven was just one part of it. We couldn’t have been successful without the help of our partners.”

Over 16 months, the team worked tirelessly to erect the six pedestrian walkways. Through long days, nights and occasional weekends, they were relentless in their pursuit to meet deadlines. Ultimately, the team achieved its goal of changing the skyline of LAX and built beautiful structures that will revolutionize airport travel at LAX and provide convenience for travelers for decades to come.