“Today we took an important vote that will help ensure our airport can accommodate expected passenger growth well into the future and ensure our customers and their families are treated to a better airport experience than today’s Terminal 1 can provide,” said April Boling, Airport Authority Board chair. “The plan will also ensure the airport can continue to function as an economic engine for the region for decades to come.”
The new Terminal 1 would feature 30 gates (up from 19) and represent a significant upgrade for passengers, offering more gate-area seating, restaurants and shops and additional security checkpoints with more lanes and a host of energy-efficiency upgrades.
The Airport Development Plan would also include numerous roadway and transportation improvements enhancing airport access. A proposed on-airport entry road would remove an estimated 45,000 cars per day from Harbor Drive.
The Airport Authority has been working with SANDAG, the Port District, the City of San Diego, MTS, NCTD, Caltrans, the County of San Diego and other regional agencies to assist in their efforts to analyze circulation around the airport, as well as to determine the best transit solution for carrying people to the airport.
The Airport Authority has set aside space between the terminals for a transit station that could accommodate any regional transit system chosen by SANDAG and other regional planning agencies.
In addition, the Airport Authority will launch an all-electric shuttle fleet that will carry transit riders to and from the Old Town Transit Center. This service is scheduled to start in mid-2020.
Unanimous approval of the environmental report was not perceived as good news by everyone, including airport watchdog and Point Loma resident Casey Schnoor. Referring to the document as “inadequate,” Schnoor said, “They’re (Airport Authority Board) railroading [the EIR] through,” while warning, “The only remedy is litigation.”
An outspoken critic of the estimated $3 billion costs for rebuilding Terminal 1, Schnoor has long contended that the Airport Authority has underestimated the forecasted growth rate, which he argues will force San Diego International Airport “to reach operational capacity in the very near future.”
Pointing to "significant and unavoidable" impacts listed in the airport EIR, Schnoor said that should serve as a red flag for residents.
The Airport Development Plan is aligned with the City’s Climate Action Plan and will provide expanded electric vehicle charging infrastructure, a bicycle path on Harbor Drive and new incentives to promote alternative commuting habits among employees. The plan also focuses on air quality.
“Our emissions are now among the lowest in the country,” said Kim Becker, president/CEO of the Airport Authority. “In fact, we are one of only two airports in North America to achieve a carbon neutrality certification under the Airport Carbon Accreditation program.”
The Airport Authority has also completed a plan to address impacts from higher sea levels, more intense rainfall and extreme heat. Part of this plan includes a partnership with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography to monitor rising sea levels using advanced sensors in San Diego Bay.
Additionally, there is a plan to expand stormwater systems that provide the ability to capture and reuse more than 39 million gallons of rain annually.
Schnoor also criticized local politicians for “not stepping up and representing the concerns of the community. There are about 15,000 people who are going to wake up in three years and be really mad because the politicians didn’t do anything.”
Schnoor charges the airport final EIR fails to adequately compensate local residents for noise and other impacts associated with airport travel in an uneven trade-off “to enhance the (airport) passenger experience.”
Schnoor argues that the Airport’s Quieter Homes Program to dampen sound in homes in the airline flight path keeping them under the 65-decibel sound limit has long waiting lists, which he insists will only become longer once Terminal 1 is completed bringing heavier air traffic to San Diego.
San Diego International Airport is the busiest single-runway commercial airport in the United States. It has seen record growth in passenger volumes over the past six years.
The impacts of this growth are most evident in Terminal 1. When it opened in 1967, it served 2.5 million passengers that year. In 2019, the same facility served more than 12 million.
Overall, the airport served roughly 25 million passengers in 2019. More than 1 million of them were international passengers. In July 2019, the Airport Authority announced an unprecedented 10-year lease agreement with its airline partners that included airline pre-approval of more than $500 million total for off-airport and on-airport transportation improvements.
Next steps for the Terminal 1 expansion project include federal environmental review and consideration of a coastal development permit by the California Coastal Commission.
The goal is to break ground on the new terminal in 2021 and open the first phase (19 gates) in 2024.
For more information, visit san.org/plan.