Report by Noel T. Braymer
San Diego’s International Airport was created and named Lindbergh Field back in 1928. Charles Lindbergh’s plane the Spirit of St. Louis was built in San Diego and took off not far from the current airport on his way to New York for his non-stop flight from there to Paris in 1927. Lindbergh Field is only 3 miles from downtown San Diego but its terminals are almost 2 miles from the I-5 Freeway and LOSSAN Rail Corridor which are both right next to the airport property. While most major airports cover thousands of acres, San Diego’s is a mere 661 acres. It is constrained with just one runway and limited room for expansion and more parking. Traffic around the airport is also already congested.
For many years San Diego has looked for a site for a replacement airport. However large tracts of flat undeveloped land are now rare in San Diego plus few people want to live near an airport. Attempts to share nearby Military Bases such as Miramar Marine Corp Air Station and Camp Pendleton were soundly rejected by the Defense Department. Finally about 8 years ago San Diego accepted that they would have to expand their current airport to its maximum capacity and fly additional service from some of the other regional airports. By 2030 San Diego also plans to connect by High Speed Rail to other airports such as Ontario Airport in San Bernardino County to meet demand for air travel in San Diego.
San Diego is now finishing construction of additional gates at Terminal 2 at the west end of the airport. The next construction is in orange at the northeast corner of the airport. A new airport train station is planned to serve San Diego Trolley, Coaster and possibly Metrolink and Amtrak trains. A pedestrian bridge will be built for passengers to cross Pacific Coast Highway . The orange square is where rail passengers will catch shuttle buses to the terminals. The blue line will be a new temporary perimeter airport road for shuttle buses to bypass the heavy traffic to the airport on surface streets. The large orange oval is a new consolidated rental car facility. This will also remove the rental car traffic off of surface streets by the airport and the rental car shuttles will also use the temporary perimeter road to get to the terminals.
By 2020 the airport authority plans to be well on its way to building new terminals for the airport. Between 2020 and 2030 the airport expects to reach its maximum demand of the potential capacity of its single runway airport. The construction of new terminals will bring the airport to its maximum capacity. Replacing the shuttle buses and perimeter airport road will be a new People Mover serving the airport terminals with a faster more direct route than the shuttle buses. This will require a tunnel under the runway. The blue square is for a new parking structure for the airport. Road construction and new freeway on-ramps are planned at the northeast end of the airport. With the People Mover passenger will be able to check baggage and confirm tickets at the northeast end of the airport before heading for the terminals. The airport authority still expects over 80 percent of passengers to drive to the airport at this time. But Trolley and train passengers will reduce the need for more parking on limited space at the airport and control traffic congestion.
The final construction to be finished by 2030 is in green. All new terminals will be built as part of this 6 plus billion dollar project. This will give the airport the maximum capacity possible for a single runway airport. To deal with future growth a new elevated train station is planned for High Speed Rail service to keep up with future travel demand for San Diego which is now served by air. Additional parking is also added to the airport which will now all be at the northeast. All passengers now will have to enter the airport at the northeast corner via the people mover and check bags, have confirmed tickets and go through security before going to the terminals. There are also plans to expand passenger service at the McClellan-Palomar Airport in Carlsbad. This airport is roughly the size of John Wayne Airport. There are also plans to share the Tijuana Airport which is right next to the US border with a new terminal built on the US side and a border control point to allow passenger to cross the border to board planes.