San Antonio mulls options to expand its airport
Tuesday, November 06, 2018
San Antonio’s airport registered a record month of passenger traffic in September, which followed two consecutive years of growth. With millions of extra passengers anticipated over the coming years, the city’s airport officials have been trying to decide on the best way forward, and they may have made a decision.
For a long while, an option for the future of air travel in San Antonio has been to start again with a brand-new airport on a different site. The current airport is situated only eight miles from downtown, making it one of the most convenient of America’s larger airports for access to the city it serves, particularly for business travelers.
However, an estimated price tag of $10 billion to create a new airport has proved unpopular to cash-strapped officials under pressure to provide a solution sooner rather than later.
At a meeting Oct. 31, Mayor Ron Nirenberg told the task force appointed with the job not to pursue using a new airport site, and instead look at retaining and expanding the current site.
Present-day San Antonio International Airport has three runways and two terminals, with a combined 24 gates. It handled 9.1 million passengers in 2017. The most likely option for the expansion of the airport would see an additional runway constructed, parallel to its most frequently used north-south strip, and a new terminal built to the north of Terminal B.
"The plans that we are examining for the future really envision a world class airport experience that you see in modern airports all over the county, so that’s really going to be the objective as we move forward," San Antonio Aviation Director Russ Handy said.
The cost of completing this work has not been finalized, but it is expected to be significantly lower than the cost of a whole new airport. An important factor when the sources of funding have not yet been finalized.
The expansion may require up to 200 acres of neighboring land to be added. In order to construct a new runway, the airport footprint will need to be increased, and in its way sit businesses and industrial areas which will need to be flattened or relocated.
"I certainly want the public to know that we’re not throwing around terms like ‘land acquisition’ lightly," commented Handy.
The decision not to create a new airport for San Antonio seems a wise choice. As well as the huge cost savings, it would be a big gamble over whether the future passenger demand would warrant it.
The city is not likely to enter the big leagues of the hub airports, or even attract some of its much-sought-after destinations, any time soon, despite the growth it has seen over the past two years — most of which has been seen on domestic routes. Turning the current airport into one that can handle the moderate growth seems a much safer bet.
The planned expansion work would be completed by 2040.
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