San Diego Pushes On With Terminal Refurbishment

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Fast-growing San Diego International Airport is pushing ahead with plans to replace its 53-year-old Terminal 1. A new state of the art 1.2 million square foot building with 30 gates will replace the existing 1960s era terminal. Construction is due to begin next year.

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San Diego Airport’s rebuild is Terminal 1 should be completed by 2024. Photo: Getty Images

A much-needed upgrade for a fast-growing airport

San Diego handled around 25 million passengers last year. That’s a tenfold increase in the number of passengers the airport handled when Terminal 1 opened in 1967.

“San Diego International Airport is the busiest single-runway commercial airport in the U.S,” Jonathan Heller, Airport Authority director of communications, told The Guardian.

“It has seen record growth in passenger volumes over the past six years, and the impacts of this growth are most evident in Terminal 1. In 2020, we will work toward several more milestones.”

When completed in 2024, the redeveloped Terminal 1 will complement the 2013 redevelopment of Terminal 2. The Airport Masterplan anticipates handling arrivals and baggage claim on the lower level. Check-in, security, food and beverage outlets, retail outlets, and the gates will all be on the upper level.

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Source: San Diego Airport Authority

The terminal refurbishment is part of a more extensive US$3 billion redevelopment at San Diego Airport. Passengers passing through San Diego can look forward to a new parking lot with capacity for 5,500 vehicles.

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There will also be a three-lane airport access road from Laurel Street and North Harbor Drive that airport planners say would remove 45,000 vehicle trips per day from Harbor Drive. Finally, a free shuttle service will operate between the airport and San Diego’s Old Town center.

Less evident to passengers will be the relocation of the existing taxiway and construction of a second taxiway to allow for easier movement of arriving and departing aircraft, the development of a new administration building on the far west side of the airport, and a reserved site for a future transit station.

Airport Authority eyes reducing environmental impact

Earlier this year,  the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority Board of Directors ticked off on the Final Environmental Impact Report. The Airport Authority wants to reduce the airport’s future environmental footprint. Some of the targets are esoteric and possibly beyond the airport’s control. This includes plans to address impacts from higher sea levels, more intense rainfall and extreme heat, for instance.

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But other plans are tangible and should help improve San Diego Airport’s environmental impact. That includes a plan to expand stormwater systems that provide the ability to capture and reuse more than 39 million gallons of rain annually. The airport redevelopment will also provide expanded electric vehicle charging infrastructure. Also planned is a bicycle path on Harbor Drive, and new incentives to promote alternative commuting habits among employees.

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San Diego Airports to improve access to the airport and its environmental footprint. Photo: Grapefruit Scuplin via Wikimedia Commons

Improved access and public transit options at San Diego Airport

Included in the works are roadway and transportation improvements to make it easier for everyone to access the airport. A proposed on-airport entry road would remove an estimated 45,000 cars per day from Harbor Drive. Space is being set aside between Terminals 1 and 2 for a transit station. It would be able to accommodate any future regional transit system that links the airport.  In the meantime, an all-electric shuttle fleet should start running to the Old Town Center this year.

Few passengers will lament the replacement of Terminal 1 at San Diego. While any rebuild is disruptive, from 2024 coming and going from San Diego will be a smoother and more hassle-free experience.

Are you a regular San Diego Airport passenger? What’s your view on the redevelopment of Terminal 1?

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