The office of U.S. Rep. Laura Richardson, D-Long Beach, announced the federal grant to improve the air carrier ramp.
Christine Edwards, the airport's operations bureau manager, said the new funding is essential to move forward with the improvements.
"It's basically what is getting us going with the project," she said.
In a statement, Richardson said, "This funding is a welcome relief for Long Beach and the businesses that support the local travel industry as well."
The money will be used to fully replace the asphalt areas of the air carrier ramp with concrete, which is more durable and longer-lasting, Edwards said.
Besides its shorter life, asphalt is inferior because depressions can develop over time as planes sit on the surface, Edwards said.
"We are constantly patching an asphalt ramp," Edwards said. "And a normal life of asphalt pavement is somewhere between 10 and 20 years.
"We have concrete pavement on the airport in some areas that dates back to the late 1930s and is still in use," she added.
Edwards said that the work will be done in phases, with a target completion date of 2013. The project will create about 120 jobs, she added.
"These are jobs that are not going to go away real quickly," she said. "Somebody is going to be hired and have work likely for several years."
The funding also will be used to electrify the air carrier ramp, allowing idling aircraft to operate on auxiliary power rather than engine fuel as they wait for passengers to board and deplane, she added.
The new system also will pump air into the planes so that they won't have to run their air-conditioning on the ground, she said.
It's cheaper for air carriers to use electricity, rather than fuel, to power airplanes on the ramp, she said.
The new system also would be better for the environment, as it would reduce fuel emissions, Edwards added.
"Because of the concerns about the environment and global warming, more and more airports are transitioning to this," she said. "As far as smaller airports go, we are probably one of the earlier ones to go to in-ground air and in-ground power."