Revamping the baggage system will require workers to build a temporary luggage-sorting area on the airfield so they can rip out a tangle of bag belts under the terminal and install 2 1/2 miles of new belts.
The Bradley terminal renovation will provide new conveniences for passengers, including a $50-million information technology package that features digital signage that will automatically update flight information.
But the long-term gains will require some short-term pain. Passengers traveling on international flights should check the city's website at for information on how the project is affecting ticket counters and security checkpoints and to learn whether they need to arrive early.
Concessions in the terminal's lobby will remain open during construction.
Officials worked with the contractor to try to limit inconveniences to travelers. The project proposal started with 18 phases, but to save money, the city's airport agency and the developers reduced the number to six, Clark said.
Bethesda, Md.-based Clark Construction Group and St. Louis, Mo.-based McCarthy Building Cos. are massive construction firms. They have done work at other airports, including Washington Dulles, SeattleTacoma and Dallas/Fort Worth international airfields. They also build hospitals, schools and jails.
Los Angeles officials attribute the receiving of just one bid to the fact that many contractors already are busy building projects downtown and for the Los Angeles Unified School District.
The complexity of the job, which will require all construction workers to pass background checks for badges from the city's airport agency, also may have caused some companies to shy away from the project.
"This is going to be the most complicated airport development project in the U.S. in the last 20 years," Clark said.
Times staff writer Steve Hymon contributed to this report.