San Diego- Consultants Provide Tab for Airport Expansion

Tuesday, April 26, 2005
Consultants Provide Tab for Airport Expansion
Both million-dollar options would add 10 aircraft gates
By Jeff Ristine
The San Diego (CA) Union-Tribune

The cost of expanding San Diego International Airport to meet a projected increase in passengers through 2015 will be either about $536 million or $576 million depending on the terminal selected to absorb most of the growth, consultants said yesterday. The San Diego County Regional Airport Authority project would add 10 aircraft gates to the current 41, and construction could begin in three years if an environmental review goes smoothly, officials said.

Preliminary costs emerged at a board of directors’ committee meeting that included votes on two other high-profile airport matters:

  • The committee voted 3-0 to remove the Borrego Springs area and Imperial County as candidates for a future regional airport to replace or supplement Lindbergh Field. If approved by the full board, the agency would be left with seven prospective locations, most of which are military.
  • In another 3-0 vote, the committee agreed to give airport authority staff additional time to resolve protests over proposed land-use policies for the areas surrounding airports in the county.

    Developing cost estimates for expanding San Diego International is the last major step before the nine-member board of directors evaluates options for improving the existing airport under a new master plan.

    One option, at $536.1 million, would build out the west side of Terminal 2 West, the newest section of the airport, with eight additional gates. Two more gates would be built on the east end of Terminal 1.

    In the other option, for $576.6 million, a new concourse would be constructed between the east side of Terminal 1 and the commuter terminal, for a net increase of seven gates. Terminal 2 West would get three new gates.

    In both scenarios, the costs include redevelopment of the area north of the runway, improving taxiways and adding aircraft parking positions and new cargo facilities. There also would be new parking, including a structure for 1,200 vehicles.

    Thella Bowens, president and CEO of the airport authority, said the improvements are needed even though the agency is pondering a possible new location for a regional airport sometime after 2015.

    “World-class airports . . . are continually spending money to make sure they have world-class facilities to meet their passengers’ needs,” Bowens said at a media briefing.

    The project would be financed by bonds, airport revenues and a share of the $4.50 passenger facility charge on tickets for departures from Lindbergh Field.

    The cost estimates were developed by HNTB Corp., lead consultants on the master plan project. Nick Johnson, associate vice president of the firm, said the estimates on the two options are close enough that they can be treated as equal in making a choice.

    It was the two other matters on the committee agenda that drew an overflow audience to the strategic-planning committee meeting, which was interrupted when Chairman Paul Nieto announced the news of Mayor Dick Murphy’s resignation.

    The three committee members at the meeting – Nieto, San Diego Councilman Ralph Inzunza and Murphy appointee Paul A. Peterson – accepted a staff recommendation to drop two remote sites from consideration in the site-selection project for a new airport.

    Three other board members participated in the discussion of the issue but will not vote until a meeting next week.

    There has been no visible support for the Borrego-area proposal, a desert site in Ocotillo Wells.

    At least some people, however, hope to get a reprieve for the Imperial County site, which would be connected to San Diego by a high-speed or maglev rail system. U.S. Rep Bob Filner, D-San Diego, supports continued study, and an Imperial County supervisor, Joe Maruca, attended yesterday’s meeting to remind the agency, “We’re willing to take this project on.”

    Dropping both remote locations would leave the site-selection project with one purely civilian site, in Boulevard. Five other options are on active military installations, while the addition of a second runway at Lindbergh Field would require land occupied by the Marine Corps Recruit Depot.

    The airport authority’s other high-profile project, updating a new land-use compatibility plan, has unresolved issues that will keep the staff working beyond the plan’s June 30 deadline.

    Critics complain the document – intended to be incorporated into city general plans and become part of the development-review process – would unduly restrict construction, including some projects already on the drawing board.

    Agency staff members said the June 30 deadline still can be met for at least four airports where no significant issues remain. In all other cases, including San Diego International, McClellan-Palomar Airport in Carlsbad, Gillespie Field in El Cajon, and San Diego’s Brown Field, Montgomery Field and the Miramar Marines Corps Air Station, the agency will seek consensus with airport operators and jurisdictions affected by the plan.