Sunday, January 2, 2005
Airport is set for growth, improvement in 2005 Passenger handling improvements are on agenda for year
By Debra Gruszecki
The Palm Springs (CA) Desert Sun
PALM SPRINGS — With a record-breaking year in passenger travel in its jet stream, Palm Springs International Airport is gearing up even larger gains in 2005. Aviation Director Richard Walsh said the airport has three primary objectives for the new year: Expand the airport with additional year-round flights and more frequent routes by air carriers.
Improve the travel experience for passengers.
Launch a capital improvement campaign, funded largely with federal grants, totaling $14.5 million to $16.5 million.
The first $6.5 million project, overseen by Parsons USA, will ramp up the number of Transportation Security Administration screening lanes from two to six in the passenger terminal.
A high-tech security access and camera control system will be installed, as part of a project beginning early this year, along with a new public information display system to keep travelers informed about arriving and departing flights.
TSA-trained personnel will staff four of the lanes, with two lanes held in reserve for peak travel times or future growth.
“We’re busy, and we need it (the expansion),” said Bryant L. Francis, airport spokesman. “We don’t want long lines or a long wait to be part of the Palm Springs’ airport experience. It is to our advantage that the TSA agrees with us and our game plan.”
The second project, still requiring regulatory and funding approval, proposes a second concourse for air carriers– and a new, outdoor atrium — at a projected cost of $8 million to $10 million.
The expansion is needed, Francis said, because the Palm Springs airport hosted nearly 1.4 million passengers in 2004 and must be ready to handle 3 million passengers annually.
“More passenger growth is our theme for 2005,” Walsh said. “The Coachella Valley is growing at rate of 14 percent a year,” Walsh said. That growth, and the surge in air travel, had Walsh vowing, “We’re going to accommodate them, and live up to our name: to be close, comfortable, convenient.”
Now in its final design phase, the new concourse would help air carriers become more operationally efficient, Walsh said.
The airport now is served by 14 airlines, providing up to 65 daily departures and 17 nonstop destinations in North America.
The new concourse would occupy an area where Gates 18 and 19 are now located in an enclosed area apart from the main, Sonny Bono Concourse. Gates 18 and 19 now are used by America West Express and Horizon Air.
After construction, America West Express and Horizon Air would be likely operators of the new concourse, along with Delta Connection and United Express.
The larger carriers such as Northwest, Continental, American, Delta, United and Alaska airlines would continue to operate out of the main concourse.
The number of gates in the proposed concourse, or its shape is still being fine-tuned, Francis said.
“We expect the new, regional concourse could accommodate a range of seven to 12 aircraft, depending on the mix or type of aircraft,” he said.
Walsh said the additional concourse will smooth out traffic flow and parking for aircraft.
What Francis described as “a new, resort port oasis” would be situated between the two concourses. Designed by Michael Buccino & Associates, it would feature a canopied top, water features and desert landscaping.
“It will allow the sun to shine in, provide our spectacular mountain views and give the public that last impression of Palm Springs,” Walsh said.
Palm Springs International Airport
It is located at 3400 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way
As the only commercial service airport in Riverside County, it serves a population of more than 500,000 permanent residents and in 2004 more than 1.3 million passengers.
Fourteen commercial airlines operate out of the airport, providing up to 65 daily departures to 17 nonstop destinations in North America.