A consultant to the San Diego Port District on Tuesday unveiled a $27-million plan that would expand the capacity of overburdened Lindbergh Field to buy time as civic leaders decide where to build a new international airport.
The short-term plan would add 76,000 square feet and six gates to the western terminal, while expanding and moving Lindbergh’s aviation fuel tanks to the northern side of the center-city airfield.
William H. Wilkinson, senior vice president of P&D; Technologies of Orange, made those recommendations after a yearlong study commissioned by the port on how to reconfigure the waterfront airport to get maximum capacity over the next decade.
Wilkinson also presented two long-range plans for a more extensive expansion of Lindbergh should the search for a replacement airfield stall or take longer than the projected 10 to 15 years. Those plans, one of which would require the acquisition of 48 acres from the adjacent Marine Corps Recruit Depot, would cost the port $289 million to $385 million.
Study Ordered Year Ago
The $445,000 study of Lindbergh expansion was ordered a year ago by port officials, who say the airport is so strapped that it must be expanded just to provide adequate service into the next decade. For instance, terminal space at the airport has a rated capacity of 10 million passengers a year, but the airport in 1988 saw 11 million passengers go through its gates, statistics show.
Port officials stress that the short-term expansion is meant to keep the airport in step with existing air travel needs and is not intended to undermine efforts to find a place for the new international airport.
Whether the Port will have to press on with the more extensive, long-range expansion is expected to become clearer by the fall, when a $300,000 airport relocation study by the San Diego Assn. of Governments is complete.
Even if a site is identified, there is still a good chance that the port will have to implement at least some of the longer-term expansions, said Port Commissioner Raymond Burk, who sits on one of the Sandag committees overseeing the relocation study.
Many Problems Seen
The preliminary sites identified by the Sandag study have “many, many problems, many problems that are not going to be solved in a short time,” warned Burk.
“Our consultant has given us a way to at least Band-Aid our way into the future until we see what happens,” said Burk.
Port commissioners took no formal action on most of Wilkinson’s report for the short-term expansion, opting instead to vote formally during a public hearing next month on the future of Lindbergh.
But commissioners did vote to put out bids immediately for a consultant to perform an environmental impact study on the $4.6-million proposed relocation and expansion of the aviation fuel stations.
The airport’s fuel tanks now hold 307,000 gallons and are on the southern edge of the airport close to the USAir hangar.
The P&D; plan would move the fuel storage area to a triangle of unused land on the northern side of the airport’s main runway. There, the plan calls for the installation of two million-gallon tanks.
The new tanks would reroute 40 to 50 fuel trucks a day from the heavily traveled Harbor Drive entrance to the airport to a Washington Street entrance on the northern edge of Lindbergh and would greatly increase fuel storage capacity at the airport, said Wilkinson. The existing tanks hold enough fuel for one day, while the new tanks would give the airport a three- to five-day supply.
Other short-term improvements proposed by Wilkinson included:
- Adding an extra lane on both sides of Harbor Drive from Laurel Street to the Harbor Island interchange, a job estimated to cost $1.5 million.
- Eliminating the road running through the airport parking lot and building a $5.3-million “fly-over” exit onto Harbor Drive that would stretch over the busy roadway and deposit vehicles into eastbound lanes. Elimination of the existing road would allow the port to add 1,200 parking spaces at Lindbergh, said Wilkinson.
- Building a $13.1-million expansion of the western terminal to add six new gates and 76,000 square feet of ticketing counters, seating areas and baggage claim. With the expansion, the number of airline gates in the terminal would be increased from 13 to 19.
- Constructing a $2.6-million apron for aircraft at the new gates in the western terminal.