From a $15-billion new capital program at Los Angeles International Airport to a $14.9-billion upgrade effort at city schools, public works agencies in California and beyond are pondering how to procure and deliver construction as they face labor shortages, materials cost hikes and project requirements to be more sustainable and inclusive.

Airport officials plan to build a new concourse terminal and 27 cargo facilities as well as roadway and airfield improvements and are looking at a “hybrid” form of progressive design-build, said Terri Mestas, chief development officer for Los Angeles World Airports. 

Speaking at the Western Winter Workshop, a construction project delivery event held in Pebble Beach, Calif., in early February, she noted that the airport will issue requests for proposals for multiple award task order contracts for architecture and engineering services; environmental and technical consulting; design-bid-build and design-build delivery construction services; project/construction management and project controls; and small business participation.

Los Angeles College Community District’s capital bond program, with 231 projects underway, requires at least 30% participation of disadvantaged and small businesses, and 35% local hires, said Rueben Smith, vice chancellor and chief facilities executive. A $5.3-billion measure passed last November includes funds set aside for affordable housing, he adds.

Denver International Airport is creating a Center for Equity and Excellence in Aviation that will provide job training for all airport employees and local high school students, said Jim Starling, chief construction and infrastructure officer. The airport has a $3.1-billion capital program through 2027 and is evaluating future projects such as a seventh runway, consolidated rental care facility, automated people mover and more gates.

Trends in airport construction include more lounges at large airports, varied seating including work stations in terminals and more power outlets, noted Katherine Goudreau, managing director of real estate for American Airlines. Facilities should also better accommodate people with special needs, such as the elderly or differently abled.

She added that flexibility must be built into facilities, as requirements “will probably change in a year.” Types of concessions such as food also should change throughout the day to optimize use of space, she said. “Passengers are looking for a lot more than they used to,” Goudreau said of the airport experience. Michelle Brantley, chief capital development officer for Ontario International Airport in California, added: “There is an expectation of dignity.”

Growing aircraft fleets will also require new infrastructure, noted Kaveh Dabiran, west regional director of planning and development, corporate real estate, for United Airlines. “We will have 700 new aircraft by 2032,” he said of United. “Where will they go? Where will we train 18,000 new employees?”

Transit Transitions

With the Olympics to be held in Los Angeles in 2028, agencies such as transit provider Metro are racing to build. “We have a $24-billion capital program now,” said Julie Owen, senior executive officer for program management oversight, yet “our staff has not even doubled in size.”

With limited labor markets and “maxed-out” consultants and contractors, Metro is looking increasingly to alternative project delivery methods such as progressive design-build and construction manager-general contractor. “We’re pretty new at it,” said Timothy Lindholm, deputy chief program management officer, noting that it requires institutional change management. “We’re going after job order contracting legislation,” he added.

The biggest risk to adopting new project delivery methods, he says, “is human nature.”

The California Dept. of Transportation in collaboration with the state Dept. of Technology will use the construction manager-general contractor approach and job order contracting for its 10,000-mile broadband initiative that will provide affordable, open-access, middle-mile broadband infrastructure to enable last-mile network connectivity throughout the state, said Donna Berry, Caltrans chief engineer. It also will emphasize connectivity to unserved and underserved communities,

“I’m sitting here talking to you about broadband” as a transportation agency, she said. “That’s how much we’re changing.” 

But not all transit agencies are looking at alternative project delivery. “Progressive design-build is not the future at [Bay Area Rapid Transit,” said Bob Powers, its general manager. “Major projects don’t lead to it if systems integration is involved.”