Planned new improvements to ’60s-era Terminal 1 would feature adding 11 new gates to the present 19 bringing the total to 30 adding more gate-area seating, restaurants and shops and additional security checkpoints with more lanes and a host of energy-efficiency upgrades. Terminal 1’s expansion, part of the overall Airport Development Plan, also includes numerous roadway and transportation improvements.
Prior to the pandemic, the timetable for Terminal 1’s redo tripling its current size had construction starting in late 2021, with the first stage of the new terminal opening in 2024, and full completion of terminal gates in 2026.
When it opened in 1967, Terminal 1 served 2.5 million passengers that year. In 2019, the same facility served more than 12 million.
Nicole Hall, senior communications specialist, San Diego County Regional Airport Authority, pointed out San Diego International Airport’s air traffic and passenger volume “mirrors the numbers at airports around the country.”
Asked if there’s a chance plummeting air traffic could scale back – or even scrap – Terminal 1’s expansion, Hall replied: “Currently, passenger volume at Transportation Security Administration checkpoints at airports around the country is down 96% compared to one year ago. As of now, the impacts from COVID-19 have not impacted current plans to redevelop Terminal 1, which is a part of the larger ADP.
“Plans for the redevelopment of Terminal 1 have not been changed. However, as we move forward, we will continue to review the potential impacts of COVID-19 on all projects and programs.”
Hall noted public input on Terminal 1’s expansion continues. “The public can provide input at board meetings, which are being held telephonically at this time,” she said.
Recently, the airport received more than $91 million from the newly created Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act Airport Grant Program.
“The relief funds are on a reimbursement basis, so we will draw down funds to reimburse eligible costs expended,” said Hall. “We are still evaluating which costs we will seek reimbursement for. The federal emergency relief funds can be used for capital expenditures, operating expenses, including payroll and utilities and airport debt payments.”
Added Hall: “The executive leadership team, in coordination with the board, will decide which costs will be reimbursed by the grant. The airport is incredibly grateful for this funding, and it will be critical in helping the airport cash flow and current obligations. As many industries are, the airports as a whole are facing unprecedented uncertainty. As time passes, there may be a need for additional assistance for airports around the country. We expect the funds will assist with FY 2020 and a portion of FY 2021 needs.”
In October 2019, the Peninsula Community Planning Board sent a letter to the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority commenting on a draft environmental impact report being circulated on proposed Terminal 1 and airport expansion.
“We object to the DEIR as all the benefits of the airport expansion go to the Airport Authority and the airlines,” said PCPB’s letter. “The burdens of increased noise and pollution all unfairly fall on the residents of Point Loma and surrounding communities like OB. The airport’s position in the DEIR is that these issues of noise and pollution are ‘significant but unavoidable harm’ to the human health of Point Loma residents. This is offensive and unacceptable. The DEIR should not be approved or move forward until real harms to human health are properly addressed.”
Added PCPB’s airport letter: “The SDCRA and the FAA have forecasted airport operations will increase by 15% through 2026, to a rate of one arrival or departure every 86 seconds, 17 hours a day, 365 days a year, regardless of whether the ADP is built or not. Thus, the SDCRAA is promoting a $3 Billion ADP proposal, which includes 11 additional gates and additional ‘remain overnight’ aircraft parking places that will increase air traffic arrivals late into the night and stretch the morning departures well into mid‐morning.”
Peninsula resident Casey Schnoor, an airport watchdog and outspoken critic of Terminal 1’s expansion, noted expansion plans are “being pushed forward when, under prior operation levels, airplane capacity was rapidly racing to its maximum, as limited by the single runway… according to prior forecasts used to justify the ADP, by 2026 or soon thereafter, there will be no more room on the runway during the 17 hours per day of non-curfew operations, for any more planes. This is regardless of whether Terminal 1 is rebuilt, remodeled in a less expansive and expensive way, or not at all. There must be a hidden motive\agenda, undisclosed to the public, to push this ADP forward.”
Korla Eaquinta, a 33-year Roseville resident, concurred in a similar letter she sent to the airport.
“The $3 billion ADP does not commit any monies to protect the health of persons in Point Loma or in other affected communities,” she said. “Instead, the ADP will significantly accelerate the airport’s growth rate to reach operational capacity within several years, resulting in three times the current noise, human health consequences as documented by the World Health Organization, greater risks of missed approaches, increased pollution and climate impacts from increased aircraft operations.”