Skip to main content

LATEST UPDATES: Election 2020: Live Results | Tracking COVID-19 | Racial Justice

San Diego Airport Moves Forward With Plan To Expanded Terminal 1

Cover image for podcast episode

The airport’s governing board approved a $3 billion project that includes expanding the terminal to 30 gates, building a new parking garage along with an access road off Laurel Street and reserving a site for a future public transit station at the airport. Airport officials say the redevelopment is needed to manage the continuing increase in flights and passengers at the airport.

Speaker 1: 00:00 To the joy of travelers and the concern of nearby residents. San Diego international airport is moving forward with plans to replace and expand its 50 year old terminal one. The airport's governing board has approved a $3 billion project that would include not only enlarging the new terminal two 30 Gates, but also creating a new parking garage, building a new airport access road off Laurel street, and even reserving a site for a future public transit station at the airport. Airport officials say the redevelopment is needed to manage the continuing increase in flights and passengers at the airport. Joining me is San Diego union Tribune reporter Lori Weisberg and Lori, welcome to the show. Thank you. What was the key approval? The project got late last week, so this key approval was the certification of this 9,500 page environmental document and the approval of this alternative project from which they were ready to approve this like a year ago, but this was a revised project.

Speaker 1: 01:01 It's still $3 billion, but it's, it was revised in the face of massive criticism from all the public agencies in San Diego County who all thought that this environmental document never really addressed the increased traffic congestion that's going to come with more passengers. And so the airport authority to its credit, listen to all these agencies, they spent a year rewriting this environmental document and made changes to the project to in fact address the congestion. You mentioned one of those in your intro and that's I'm making space for and funding a transit station, your terminals one and two if and when they ever bring transit to the airport. It could be the trolley, it could be a people mover. Now terminal one that many people know as the Southwest airlines terminal is, is pretty old and I mean it has that mid century look to it. So the plan says that the terminal will come down and a brand new terminal is going up.

Speaker 1: 01:58 How will the new terminal be different? So the current terminal, as you mentioned, is all built in 1967 it has 19 kind of narrow Gates. So this much bigger facility is going to accommodate when it opens in 2026 30 Gates, it's going to be 30 so 11 more Gates than what exists now. And it's going to be, if you're familiar with terminal two now, the, the part that was redone, it's going to have, you know, much better concessions, more state of the art technology, more seating areas, much more light fills coming in. So much more modern feeling of facility. And what are some of the other changes in this redevelopment plan? So I'm, as I mentioned, there's that, that transit station, which is a big deal. There's a new three lane inbound roadway that's gonna come off Harbour drive and it's gonna supposedly divert 45,000 cars a day.

Speaker 1: 02:49 So you get, you're coming into the airport, no traffic lights and traffic signals. So it's supposedly a speedier, efficient, less congestion filled experience. So that's, that's a big part of it. They're building a new administration building to replace the one which is exists now, which is in the former commuter terminal. So that's a big deal. And there, I don't know if he can call it part of the project, but they're introducing later this year to adjust this whole transit issue. Um, and uh, electric free shuttles that will take you from the old town transit station directly to the airport. So if you choose to take the coaster or the trolley, you can then get to the airport on this free shuttle that will run fairly frequently. And what about the new taxiway that's part of this redevelopment? What will that do? That's right. I, I neglected to mention there's a new taxiway.

Speaker 1: 03:37 So there's a primary taxiway now and this will, this second taxiway will kind of give the airport more wiggle room for the aircraft to move around as they make their way onto the taxiway. Sort of almost like a, the way they explain it to me, kind of almost like a holding area so that you have more space for the movement of these aircraft. You know, obviously there's so many flights a day now with only one runway. There's a limit to how much San Diego international can expand. How much of an increase in passengers and flights do airport officials expect? So I'm a pretty big increase and they, they hasten to point out that it's not the project that's bringing the passengers, it's the desirable ability to come to San Diego. And whether they do this project or not, these passengers are coming. So this is going to ease their experience.

Speaker 1: 04:25 So right now we're at about 25 million passengers, uh, annually, and it's gonna, um, it's going to rise to about 40 million and then it can't get any higher than that. And they think that could come as early as around 20, 35. I mean, they have a 20, 50 time horizon, but it's that maximum capacity and passengers at least could be coming, um, sooner than 20, 50. Now more flights means more noise for the communities surrounding the airport. Does this new project address that in any way? So not per se. I mean, they, they already have programs to, um, address the noise already. Um, so the cause, as they point out, these passengers are coming anyway. So there are certain things they're going to be doing. The best example they gave me is they have a kind of an insulation program for people who live closest to the airport and they're going to expand it where they cover, you know, more double glaze windows and, and, and door replacement tuned to minimize the noise.

Speaker 1: 05:22 But that, um, surprisingly nobody showed up, even though there's a lot of opposition, nobody showed up to protest the plan. However, there have been a number of letters. No, the belief from the peninsula planning group is one that represents that area saying, you know, hold off on this plan until you do more about noise. Uh, so that's, that's going to be continuing debate, discussion, controversy. As I say, with or without this project, where's the $3 billion coming from? So, um, it's all from, um, a combination of fees. Most notably the, um, the fees that the airlines paid to, to basically rent the facility. Um, concessions, um, rental car fees, so all fee driven. Um, one interesting thing is that they don't have permission to spend any of their money off the airport. So one thing they're doing to mollify the city of San Diego that wanted to see more street improvements.

Speaker 1: 06:14 Um, they're, they've jointly written a letter to the FAA seeking approval to use some of their funds for these off airport improvements. So what's the next step for this project and what kind of timeframe are we looking at? So the next, there's some approvals to keep reveals the California coastal commission, which has to approve permits and they're in their letters and correspondence I've seen so far, they appear to be pretty much onboard with the project they weren't a year ago. And then they need, there was the local approval of the environmental impact report, but there's a federal level document as well. The feds have to approve that. They also need to hire a designer and contractor to design the project and build it. So we don't have a lot of the specifics of what that terminal is going to look like. But we will once they hire that. So they think that once they do all that, they could be under construction by late next year with the initial opening of the first 19 Gates in 2024 and then the complete project done by 2026 they had hoped to be on that timeline, moved back a year. They had hoped to be earlier, but it still is. It still sounds like an ambitious timeline. Sure it does. All right. I've been speaking with San Diego union Tribune reporter Lori Weisberg. Laurie, thanks for coming in. Thank you.

KPBS Midday Edition Segments podcast branding

KPBS Midday Edition Segments

Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.