The 20 acres of concrete and asphalt have been pulverized and gathered into gigantic piles on the now-dirt lot, making up much of the raw material being used for Green Build, the largest expansion in the history of the airport.
It’s been dubbed The Green Build by the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority because of its commitment to certain environmental goals — low-water landscaping, reduced electricity, natural lighting, recycled materials and the like — but the term could just as easily be a reference to the cost: $1 billion, or quite a stack of greenbacks.
The project has reached the halfway point, and airport officials said the rest of the flight shouldn’t be too bumpy. If this was your captain speaking, he might be describing the clear skies outside your window.
“The 50-percent mark is a major milestone for us,” said Bryan Enarson, vice president for development at the Airport Authority, who led a media tour recently. “We’re on schedule and on budget, and it’s really starting to take shape.”
When the ribbon-cutting takes place next year, Terminal 2 will have 10 more gates, expanded dining and other concessions, more security and some big-time technology upgrades.
On the Harbor Drive side, an elevated road will serve cars dropping off passengers at the terminal, separating arriving and departing passengers for the first time. The road will include two pavilions, which the airport calls “smart curbs,” that will provide ticket and check-in services before entering the terminal.
The project is designed to meet projected growth at Lindbergh Field, the busiest one-runway airport in the country and second-busiest single-runway airport in the world. When ground broke on the project in 2009, the airport served an estimated 17 million per year. By 2030, that number could almost double.
“It’s going to be Lindbergh on steroids,” Enarson said.
Not only will the upgrade expand capacity, he said, it will make the airport experience less hectic for passengers.
“It’ll be a lot easier,” he said. “You’ll get dropped off at the smart curb, get checked in, do everything you need to do, then head over the pedestrian bridge to security and your gate.
The smart curb, he said, will eventually become a signature visual statement. It’ll be covered with a canopy, with backlighting at night.
“It’ll be quite an entrance,” Enarson said.
New technology in the kiosks mean customers can check in anywhere, and no longer have to use equipment specific to an airline. These kiosks will also be retrofitted to Terminal 1, Enarson said.
An elevated road at Terminal 1 is not in the cards, however.
“That terminal was built in the 1960s and is too old to retrofit. It isn’t sized for what we do today,” Enarson said.
The project is also on course to meet job-creating goals, Enarson said. The number of employees now on the job is close to hitting its projected peak of 1,000, and most will be local residents.
“When we started, we were hoping for 60 percent, and we’re in excess of 80 percent. Our small-business participation has also been very good,” he said. “We want the money to stay in San Diego.”
In all, some 4,000 people will have been employed in the project, said airport spokeswoman Katie Jones.
The Airport Authority is applying for a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. Mike Lowe, project director for Kiewit/Sundt, the contractor for the elevated roadway, said construction waste is being recycled on site at a rate of 98 percent. He said heavy construction vehicles use biodiesel fuel and are equipped with Tier 3, cleaner-burning engines.
The biggest challenge to passengers has been coping with roadside construction and being directed to overflow parking, Enarson said. By October, 700 of the parking spaces removed during construction will be replaced and the remaining 600 by next April. The Green Build does not call for new parking, but some could be added in future upgrades, he said.
The project is being financed through revenue bonds, which will be paid back using existing revenues — rents, airline fees and a $4.50-per-ticket fee that all airports charge, Enarson said. The Airport Authority will also get grants from the Federal Aviation Administration, which has funds for that purpose through a 10-percent surcharge on tickets.
“The only people who pay for an airport are the ones who use it,” Enarson said. “It’s the best deal any city can have.”
LINDBERGH FIELD'S GREEN BUILD: AT A GLANCE
• 10 new gates, raising airport total to 51; adding roughly 50 flights per day
• Construction of a new, elevated road at Terminal 2 dedicated to departing passengers only; existing ground-level road will be used for arriving passengers
• “Smart curb” services at two new 200-foot-by-40-foot pavilions on the elevated road for passengers to check-in, print boarding passes, check baggage and view gate information
• More security lanes to improve flow of passengers and cut down on wait times
• “Sunset Cove” dining options and expanded shopping throughout the terminal. Among the concessionaires: Stone Brewing, Pannikin Coffee and Tea, Saffron, Phil’s BBQ, Artisan Market, Stack Shack, 12th Fairway Bar and Grill, Warwick’s of La Jolla, PGA Tour Shops, Lacoste, Kids Love San Diego, Jack in the Box, Jewelry by Samantha Davimes, Sunglass Hut, Brookstone, Brighton Collectibles, In Motion Entertainment, CNBC News, Be Relax Spa.
• A new United Services Organization (USO) building will be the largest-known USO at an airport, complete with lounge, Internet, gaming room and courtyard for troops to relax between flights or wait to get picked up and go to camp.