US$3 billion San Diego Airport terminal expansion receives approval

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The US$3 billion terminal expansion at the San Diego International Airport has received approval from the California Coastal Commission, a critical stepping stone that brings the project closer to realization. The groundbreaking for the expansion is set to take place later this year and while the commission has raised its concerns about environmental issues, such as potential flooding due to sea-level rise, greenhouse gas emissions, and increased traffic congestion, it imposed a number of conditions designed to minimize the impacts of the project. The project, calls for the demolition of the existing 336,000-square-foot, 19-gate Terminal 1 building, and replacing it with a 1.2 million-square-foot building housing 30 gates.

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The airlines that currently use Terminal 1, complain that the aging facility, constructed over half a century ago, is no longer adequate to accommodate growing passenger volumes. Passenger traffic plummeted greatly over the last year because of the pandemic and while flight activity has rebounded greatly, it could be a couple of years before the yearly numbers return to the airport’s record level of 25 million passengers in 2019. Also planned is the relocation of the existing taxiway and construction of a second taxiway and a new 5,500-space parking garage to allow for easier movement of arriving and departing aircraft.

Two key hurdles have to be cleared before construction can start among those; the Airport Authority is awaiting expected approval by the Federal Aviation Administration of a federal-level environmental impact analysis, and in October, the Airport Authority is expected to approve two major construction and design contracts for the terminal, related airfield and roadways improvements. If those two hurdles are approved, construction would be set to begin in November with the first 19 gates in the new terminal expected to open in 2025. The demolition of the old terminal would follow, with the additional 11 gates ready to be opened by 2027.