A concept rendering of the new Terminal 1 showing the roadways for arrivals and departures at separate levels. Courtesy Airport Authority

Plans to replace aging Terminal 1 at San Diego International Airport cleared a major hurdle Thursday when the Airport Authority board unanimously approved the Environmental Impact Report for the $3 billion project.

The new Terminal 1 would replace the current overcrowded 53-year-old structure in stages, ultimately adding 11 additional gates, while moving incoming traffic off Harbor Drive and making room for a future transit station.

Officials hope to break ground on the terminal sometime next year, with the first phase of gates anticipated to open in 2024.

“Today, we took an important vote that will help ensure our airport can accommodate expected passenger growth well into the future and ensure our customers and their families are treated to a better airport experience than today’s Terminal 1 can provide,” said April Boling, chair of the Airport Authority. “The plan will also ensure the airport can continue to function as an economic engine for the region for decades to come.”

Key features of the plan include:

  • A total of 30 gates for a net increase of 11, bringing the airport to a total of 62
  • A new parking deck with 5,500 spaces — 650 more than currently available at Terminal 1
  • A three-lane terminal access roadway beginning opposite the Coast Guard Station to take 45,000 vehicles a day off of Harbor Drive
  • Separation of departure and arrival traffic into two levels, as at Terminal 2
  • Relocation of the Airport Authority headquarters from the old commuter terminal to a new building on the west side of the airport
  • Space for a future transit station between the two terminals
  • More seating at gates and additional security checkpoints with more lanes

The work will be done in two stages, beginning with building 19 new gates on the east side, and then replacing the current 19 gates with 11 new ones. This sequence will ensure that no gates are lost during construction.

“This operation is happening right in the heart of the airport,” said Dennis Probst, vice president and chief development officer. “We believe we can manage all of the challenges that are coming, but it will be an interesting period of time for the airport.”

The next steps for the project include federal environmental review and approval from the California Coastal Commission.

Terminal 1 opened in 1967 and served 2.5 million passengers that year. In 2019, the same facility served more than 12 million.

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