As many of you know, the Airport Authority team has been working hard over the past several years on the Airport Development Plan (ADP), which envisions the replacement of the aging and outdated Terminal 1, along with related improvements. Our goal is to ensure that your airport can continue to provide a world-class customer experience for decades to come.
Last week, we took a big step in this process. We released a revised environmental study for the ADP that improves on the plan in a number of important ways. As you'll recall, the original Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) was released in July 2018, and the community had a lot to say about it! Since then, we've held more than 100 meetings and did a lot of listening. Then we went back and revised our thinking to make the project work better for everyone.
When we say "everyone," we're talking about the 24 million people who fly each year to visit families and friends or conduct business; as well as our neighbors who live and work around the airport; and, of course, the 9,400 people who come to work at SAN every day.
The planning process has been a collaborative experience with regional partner agencies, stakeholders and the greater San Diego community, as we seek to create a plan that address the significant growth in passenger volumes we've seen over the years.
Nowhere is the impact of this growth more evident than in the cramped and overburdened Terminal 1. It was built in 1967 and served 2.5 million passengers its first year. In 2018, the same facility served 12 million passengers. Realistically, Terminal 1 has outlived its useful lifespan. That's a point on which virtually everyone agrees.
So the newest vision includes everything we've long planned for in a new, modern airport terminal, including more gate-area seating, restaurants and shops, as well as additional security checkpoints with more lanes. The plan still calls for a proposed on-airport access road that would remove an estimated 45,000 cars per day from North Harbor Drive.
But here are six important areas in which we've made changes to the original plan based on your feedback:
One thing that hasn't changed in the ADP is the need that drives it. A new Terminal 1 will ensure that the airport can provide a better experience for passengers as their numbers increase – and passenger volumes will continue to grow regardless of whether Terminal 1 is replaced. The FAA and the marketplace dictate how many airplanes can take off and land. It is SAN's single runway – not the terminals – that determines the ultimate capacity of the airport.
You can read all about the ADP at http://www.san.org/plan, or check out a concise summary of the project here. You can dive into the full Recirculated Draft EIR here – where you'll find all of the revisions I talk about in this letter described in "Alternative 4."
As always, thanks for your feedback, input and support.
Kimberly J. Becker
President / CEO
San Diego County Regional Airport Authority
The Airport Authority has reached a new 10-year agreement with its airline partners that will give the Airport Authority the ability to contribute over a half-billion dollars to help reduce traffic congestion and make it easier for everyone to access San Diego International Airport.
The agreement allows us to effectively partner with other regional agencies to improve access to the airport through transportation and transit projects. The Airport Authority believes a strong connection to the region's transportation system is extremely important for our passengers. We recognize that planning and paying for transportation improvements is a complex process requiring collaboration and coordination among numerous public agencies.
We know that no single agency can tackle this issue alone. We are pleased and proud to be working with our regional partners, including SANDAG, the City of San Diego, Port of San Diego, the Military, Caltrans and MTS, on potential transportation and transit connection improvements to the airport. In that regard, over the last several months, we've made great strides towards collaboration with our regional partners, as well as the airlines that fly out of San Diego International Airport.
I'll talk more about the details regarding the half-billion-dollar investment in just a minute. But first I want to stress that airline pre-approval for spending of this nature and magnitude demonstrates our airline partners' understanding of the importance of these transportation and transit enhancements to the community. It also demonstrates their commitment to the entire region.
This 10-year agreement defines the relationship between the Airport Authority and our partner airlines. It covers rights and obligations of the parties as well as rates and charges the airlines pay to use the airport's facilities. The airlines are our tenants and partners, and are a major source of income for the airport. The Airport Authority does not levy taxes. Airport revenue comes from rates and fees charged to airport tenants; from fees charged to businesses that use the airport property; and a small amount from federal grants.
This agreement addresses the unprecedented air passenger growth that has flowed through San Diego International Airport in the past five years, and the significant air passenger growth that is forecasted to continue. It's important to note that air passenger growth will occur regardless of whether Terminal 1 is replaced. It is somewhat counter-intuitive, but a terminal replacement does not create more capacity for aircraft operations.
We have just one runway. The FAA establishes the operating requirement for traffic in the skies and with just one runway there are limitations to the amount of traffic the runway can accept.
To be clear, the terminal does not create additional capacity. A new terminal allows visitors to and from San Diego to have the kind of customer experience we want for them.
The funding made available through the new agreement with the airlines will help fund transportation and transit solutions that are ultimately agreed upon with our regional partners. However, the ADP must proceed in order for those contributions to be used towards infrastructure.
While the specific improvements are being studied and not yet approved, the agreement ensures there will be substantial funding for those improvements should the Airport Authority and partner agencies decide to go forward with them. The contribution of over a half-billion dollars could help fund the following projects if approved:
The Airport Development Plan includes projects that provide better connections for transit users, bicyclists and pedestrians, including:
When needed, the Airport Authority will seek FAA approval for possible off-airport transportation and transit projects, similar to previous and current off-airport projects undertaken by the Airport Authority to improve Harbor Drive and Sassafras Street.
With this new agreement, we have a platform to move forward on two fronts: One, to provide a first-class passenger experience in the terminals, including a new Terminal 1, and two, an efficient and accessible transportation solution that relieves congestion and makes getting to the airport easier for everyone.
The new year promises to be full of potential for San Diego International Airport (SAN) and its owner/operator, the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority. And that means good things for the entire region.
This year, together with Mayor Kevin Faulconer and regional agencies led by SANDAG, we will address the long-standing issue of forging a better public transit connection to the airport. We believe it is time to collectively envision how people will get to and from the airport into the future, and make our transportation system the best that it can be.
At the same time, we will advance the Airport Development Plan, centered around replacing the aging Terminal 1. Everyone agrees this is long overdue!
Count on us to pursue more international nonstop service to Central America, South America, Asia and Europe, while adding new domestic routes, as well. We are committed to expanding our connectivity to the world.
You can also anticipate more opportunities for small and local companies to do business with the airport, something we are proud of, and committed to providing.
All of this will be made possible by leveraging the Airport Authority's strong financial position while:
We are committed to creating the world-class airport San Diego has come to expect and celebrate. We promise the best is yet to come!
Since my last message of October 24, there has been a series of very productive meetings with local agencies and Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer regarding the Draft EIR for the Airport Development Plan (ADP), and I wanted to provide you a progress report.
On November 20, Mayor Faulconer convened the leadership of the Airport Authority, SANDAG, the Port of San Diego and MTS with City staff. Specific suggestions to deal with both near-term and long-term solutions for traffic impacts and transit access were brought up and will be considered by the individual agencies.
The Mayor asked the participants to report progress in approximately 30 days. Time is of the essence, as delay will add an estimated $8 million per month to the total ADP cost. There is also universal desire to see Terminal 1 replaced sooner rather than later. While it is likely that the Airport Authority will recirculate the DEIR, that will depend on decisions made about the path forward.
Our goal, shared by many, has been to address comments on the Draft EIR for the ADP, including the replacement of 50-year-old Terminal 1, while allowing us to move forward expeditiously. Related traffic impacts and transit access will require the collaboration of SANDAG, MTS and other entities. Solving one of San Diego's perennial issues – transit connectivity to the airport – is now a group effort, as it should be.
On our part, we have developed an updated air travel forecast scenario based on 2018, which will be submitted to the FAA for approval this month. We have also committed to revisiting the parking requirement contemplated in the Draft EIR. And we have initiated conversations with the FAA about potential financial participation in off-airport roadway and transit improvements.
One point to emphasize is that the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority is regional far beyond its name. We serve air travelers from throughout the region. The airport's nearly $12 billion annual economic impact is truly regional. And our nine-member Board includes representatives from north, south and east, as well as central San Diego County.
It is exciting to report true progress. I look forward to updating you periodically as we advance our efforts to deliver a better airport for the region.
Thank you for your interest and support.
You may have read media coverage about the Airport Authority's Airport Development Plan, which centers on the critically needed replacement of Terminal 1. The news coverage hasn't told the whole story, so I am writing to you today to provide a bit more insight and clarity directly from the Airport Authority. Admittedly, we may not have shared details of our program and the planning in a way that best addresses some of the stated community concerns, so my goal with this letter is to start a more positive and constructive conversation with everyone.
One key area to address upfront is the issue of off-airport spending. We've said repeatedly that the Airport Authority is willing and able to pay its proportionate share for road and transit improvements around the airport, but the message seems to have been lost along the way. Let me state unequivocally that the Airport Authority is ready and willing to pay our proportionate share for road and transit improvements that make it easier to get to the airport.
While it's true that the Authority must coordinate funding with the FAA, which regulates our spending, we are not forbidden from off-airport spending on infrastructure projects. In fact, we've done it before, working with our Federal partners to fund improvements to Sassafras Street, Washington Street, and Harbor Drive. We have already launched discussions with the FAA to determine the extent to which we can help pay for additional projects that are off airport property.
As many of you understand and agree, the plan to replace Terminal 1 and make related improvements is necessary to accommodate ever-growing numbers of air travelers and ensure the airport can continue to function efficiently as a gateway to the rest of the nation and the world. The airport already employs approximately 9,000 people and contributes nearly $12 billion annually to the region's economy, a number that will only rise with the successful completion of the Airport Development Plan.
Most would also agree that we need to provide air travelers with better ways to access the airport via both our streets and transit – a key part of the Draft Environmental Impact Report for the new Terminal 1 project.
The mobility ideas cited in our environmental impact report are not any one agency's sole responsibility. Recognizing this, the Airport Authority launched the Harbor Drive Mobility Committee in January 2017 to pull together our key partners to determine what improvements are needed and how we can work together to accomplish them. The committee includes planners and policy makers from the City of San Diego, SANDAG, MTS and the Port and others who would need to work together on mobility solutions around the airport.
We've also worked directly with SANDAG and MTS on near-term transit improvements to enhance the Trolley-to-Terminals connection to the Middletown station. We all agree that more needs to be done here, and we're committed to working with SANDAG and MTS to make this connection function at its highest level. Follow-up meetings to discuss next steps are already scheduled.
It's become apparent recently that long-held plans for mobility around the airport may need to be revisited. For over a decade, regional plans have called for an Intermodal Transit Center, or ITC, that would serve as a connection point for the trolley, Amtrak, the Coaster and, eventually, the planned high-speed rail. We've committed to providing an on-airport connector to this ITC.
While many are now questioning the region's established plan, the ITC remains the solution identified in SANDAG's Regional Transportation Plan, and it was therefore included in the Airport's EIR. If our regional planners determine the ITC is no longer the desired solution, and a change in direction is formalized, the airport can adjust plans for connectivity. We stand ready to participate in that conversation.
Further, our environmental impact report discusses other mitigation measures, including a connection to the Old Town station and enhancements to MTS bus service to the airport – options we are discussing with MTS and are ready to help pay for, pending MTS concurrence and FAA approval. These items and others were discussed at the Harbor Drive Mobility Committee meeting Wednesday (October 24).
Additionally, the Airport Authority has pledged $166 million to build a new entry roadway on airport property that will connect Laurel Street and Harbor Drive directly to the airport, removing an estimated 45,000 cars per day from Harbor Drive. Inbound airport traffic will be separated from local traffic on Harbor Drive.
This roadway improvement also provides a dedicated connector to the north side of the airport to allow the connection to the ITC to operate independently from all other traffic, something Circulate San Diego has been advocating for and that is already in the plan. Ultimately, the dedicated connection could become an automated people mover to the ITC, once that facility is built.
Another benefit of the on-airport roadway is that Harbor Drive will have to accommodate fewer cars, creating an opportunity for the City or SANDAG to use the extra lanes for a future dedicated bus lane or trolley line along Harbor Drive that would not be possible under existing conditions.
The airport's plan sets aside space for an on-airport roadway system for outbound traffic as well. To make that happen, the airport is seeking input from the Harbor Drive Mobility Committee on how to connect the eastbound lanes to existing lanes on Harbor Drive and Laurel Street to formalize the changes. Assistance from our partners is critical to developing the appropriate solution.
The airport, along with the airlines, is extremely eager to provide a better experience for our mutual customers. These customers are business travelers, convention attendees, vacationers, our service members and our own families and friends who use the airport every day.
We have heard from the community and we are taking your comments seriously. There is recognition that the Terminal 1 replacement project is too important, timely and necessary for our region to be delayed, but we have to do our part to address community concerns. We hear you and we're ready to pay our share of needed improvements.
We look forward to working with regional agencies and members of the community at large to create the airport we all need and deserve.
The Airport Authority is committed to keeping the public informed throughout the Airport Development Plan four-year process. There will be multiple opportunities for public input during the planning process and the formal environmental review.
If you are interested in inviting an Airport Authority representative to make a presentation about the Airport Development Plan to a group that you’re involved with, please contact Jonathan Heller at (619) 400-2891 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
To keep key stakeholders and the community informed about the ADP, the Airport Authority has hosted the following public meetings in 2019:
The following meetings are upcoming and open to the public:
If you would like to be added to the Airport Authority’s email list to be kept informed about the Airport Development Plan, please email Rebecca Gilbert at email@example.com.
The Aviation Activity Forecast provides critical information that allows the Airport Authority to:
An updated Aviation Activity Forecast for San Diego International Airport was formally approved by the FAA on June 19, 2019.