Transit board moves forward on Metro stop to link Los Angeles airport with people mover

Transit officials approved a new train station Thursday that would connect to Los Angeles International Airport through a people mover — a step toward closing an embarrassing public transportation gap that has bedeviled travelers in the nation's second-largest city for years.

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority's directors unanimously agreed to proceed with studying the environmental impact of the project. It's the first step toward building a light rail station about 1.5 miles east of the airport.

"This is a historic day for LAX and a historic day for our city because we're finally on the way to bringing rail to LAX," Los Angeles Mayor and Metro board member Eric Garcetti said. "I think we'll be able to fix a historic mistake of our past."

The new station would cost an estimated $200 million and link to the airport with a $1.5 billion elevated train similar to those operating at major airports around the world. Transit officials have not yet secured all funding or finalized the station's design, and the city's airport agency is responsible for building the people mover. The station would list flight information for travelers, offer free wireless Internet and have an energy efficient design, according to guidelines approved Thursday.

The new station would be located along the Crenshaw Metro line, an 8.5-mile rail line that began construction in January and is slated to be open in 2019.

The planned station and people mover aim to bridge the often-criticized gap between public rail transit and LAX's terminals. The closest train stop to the airport is 2.5 miles away on the Green Line, which has been open since 1995 but has never connected directly to the airport. Instead, travelers have to lug their bags onto a shuttle bus to get to their flights.

The exact location of the proposed station hinges on the design of the people mover, which will not be finalized by Los Angeles World Airports, the city's airports department, until at least December.

County supervisor and Metro board member Don Knabe noted that the new station would become "a beautiful terminal to nowhere" if the people mover is not realized.

But airport officials reiterated the urgency of the people mover. Airport traffic has swelled to up to 200,000 cars each day, LAWA director Gina Marie Lindsey said Thursday.

Access to the airport through the light rail and people mover would not be finished until at least 2022, officials said.