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San Diego airport signs off on Terminal 1 replacement plan

Jan. 10, 2020
6 min read
San Diego airport signs off on Terminal 1 replacement plan
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San Diego International Airport is ready to move forward with a $3 billion plan to replace its aging Terminal 1, a move that will bring an upgraded experience to nearly half of the airport's travelers.

An updated environmental plan for the proposed 30-gate replacement terminal plus related airfield and ground transportation improvements was approved by the local Airport Authority on Thursday. The San Diego Union-Tribune reported no objections to the plan were raised.

"The new Terminal 1 would be a more modern and efficient facility with up to 30 gates – 11 more than the existing Terminal 1," according to the Airport Development Plan. "It would offer more gate area seating, restaurants and shops, as well as additional security checkpoints with more lanes and a host of energy-efficiency upgrades.”

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A conceptual rendering of the new Terminal 1 at San Diego International Airport. (Image by San Diego International Airport)
A conceptual rendering of the new Terminal 1 at San Diego International Airport. (Image by San Diego International Airport)

Work on the first phase of the new Terminal 1, which will replace the 19 existing gates on a one-for-one basis, could begin by the end of 2021 and open in 2024 under the airport's latest plan. The remaining 11 gates could open by 2026, depending on demand.

Southwest Airlines, the largest carrier in San Diego, is the primary tenant of Terminal 1. Allegiant Air, Frontier Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Spirit Airlines and Sun Country Airlines also operate from the terminal.

A map showing the different elements of San Diego International Airport's new development plan. (Image by San Diego International Airport)
A map showing the different elements of San Diego airport's new development plan. (Image by San Diego International Airport)

Terminal 2 at San Diego airport, which houses all other airlines, is unchanged under the development plan. That facility first opened in 1979 and was last expanded in 2013.

This is the second time the San Diego airport has put forward its plans to replace Terminal 1. The first time, however, the plan was roundly rejected by a plethora of local agencies — including the City of San Diego itself — for failing to address increased traffic congestion to and from the airport. As a result, the airport went back to the drawing board to come up with a more amenable plan for getting people in and out.

"We need to upgrade Terminal 1 and we need to do it in the right way," said San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer in November 2018. "The Airport Authority committed to reworking its development plan to fully analyze transportation solutions both inside and outside its footprint, including enhancing transit connectivity and reducing traffic congestion."

The newly approved proposal includes dedicated lanes for vehicles heading the the airport, as well as a space between Terminals 1 and 2 set aside for a future transit station at the airport.

A conceptual rendering a possible new transit station at San Diego airport. (Image by San Diego International Airport)
A conceptual rendering a possible new transit station at San Diego airport. (Image by San Diego International Airport)

San Diego's regional planning authority is studying four different options to connect the airport to the region's Trolley light rail and commuter rail network. Alternatives include a people mover — like the AirTrains that serve Newark (EWR) and New York John F. Kennedy (JFK) airports — between the terminals and a new train station serving the Trolley, Amtrak and regional commuter rail, as well as an extension from the existing Trolley lines.

Terminal 1 at San Diego airport opened with an annual design capacity of 2.5 million in 1967, according to the airport. Today, the terminal serves more than 12 million passengers a year.

Featured image by ullstein bild via Getty Images

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