San Diego County Regional Airport Authority officials will be singing that recently reprised Frank Sinatra hit “Come Fly With Me!” once workers pack up and walk away from a $1 billion expansion project at the San Diego International Airport, aka Lindbergh Field.
Two general contracting teams are halfway through the four-year effort, though only 30 percent of the work has been completed, according to Bryan Enarson, vice president of development for the airport authority.
The busiest stretch will take place next year, when most of the construction will occur, he said. “We’ll have the most going on next year,” said Enarson. “We’ll have more than 1,000 jobs here on the project.”
The work is scheduled for completion in early 2013 on the 668-acre property.
“It’s very much like a roller coaster; it takes that slow ride up with the chain, and then it gets to the peak, and then slides down to the other side,” he added. “That will be our peak — next year.”
A joint venture consisting of Turner Construction Co., PCL Construction Services Inc. and Flatiron Construction Corp. is handling work on the “plane side” of the airport’s Terminal 2, or Contract One, which includes adding 460,000 square feet to the terminal, along with construction of 10 new gates to bring the total to 41, and expanding the airfield by adding more than 1.5 million square feet for 10 new jet parking spaces on the west side of the property, as well as other improvements to the “apron.”
The work involves pouring concrete in three layers until it is 28 inches thick.
“It’s a lot of concrete,” said Dan McGuckin, project manager for the joint venture involved in the work on Contract One.
But “it’ll make for smoother operations on the airfield,” said Enarson.
Kiewit/Sundt is handling work on the “street side” of the project, or Contract Two, constructing an elevated roadway in front of the terminal to separate arriving and departing passengers as well as “smart curb” check-in facilities in front of the terminal.
In addition, the number of security checkpoint lanes will be doubled to 12 from six, said Enarson.
“It will go with our goal of keeping the average processing time to 10 minutes,” he added.
The Kiewit/Sundt joint venture is building a separate parking management and USO building near the terminal.
Small Businesses Contribute
McGuckin said 25 percent of the direct cost of the project is being handled by minority-owned, women-owned and other small businesses.
“Well over 80 percent of those businesses are local,” he said. “It’s truly being built by San Diego, with an emphasis on bringing in small companies and helping them to grow.”
The overall project has not been without its challenges, especially for travelers on their way in and out of the airport.
For example, the 1,300-car parking lot in front of Terminal 2 was closed in April, replaced with a temporary lot north of the terminal located on McCain Street. The lot will be restored once the terminal work is completed.
The project is an important one for the region, and will help keep pace with San Diego’s future growth.
Airport studies show that the airport generates $10 billion a year in economic activity, underwriting 6,000 jobs.
Once the Terminal 2 gates are completed, they will be able to accommodate the new two-engine Boeing 787 aircraft, which has a 50-foot wider wingspan than earlier model aircraft, such as the Boeing 737 and 757, which dominate flights at Lindbergh.
“We’re going to have a dual-level roadway with departing passengers going to the upper level and arriving passengers using the lower level,” said Enarson. “Today, we have to mix that traffic, so it adds to a lot of confusion and congestion on the roadway.”
Airport studies say 17 million passengers used the facility in 2010 (passenger numbers peaked at 18.6 million in 2007), but that figure is expected to rise to 33 million in 2030.
Officials dub the project as a “green build” because contractors are recycling waste materials, such as the old concrete. The designers have also added sustainable features that will allow for reduced energy and water consumption.
While work continues on both sides of the Terminal 2, officials are looking at changes to Terminal 1, but work there is years off, plus other proposed changes to airport ground operations.
The board that oversees airport operations has approved relocation of rental car operations to the north side of the airport, which will require the use of shuttle buses.
Officials want rental car companies in the consolidated facility to add $10 to the daily rental fee by 2017, but operators have raised objections to the fee.
Enarson said the board’s approval means that the facility will go forward as planned, and has approved $14.5 million to purchase those shuttle buses.
Intermodal Facility Planned
Eventually, the regional transportation public planning agency San Diego Association of Governments and the airport authority are planning to build an “intermodal facility” on the northeast side of the property to accommodate air passengers arriving by rail, trolley and bus.
McGuckin said his biggest challenge is that the work is being performed under a fast track system in which the construction proceeds just ahead of the designers instead of the traditional two-step process of design and then build.
“There is always a challenge when you’re doing a design build project to keep the design in front of the building process,” said McGuckin. “It saves a substantial amount of time by building this way, but it also keeps you on your toes.”
He noted, for example, that the joint venture started work on the foundation for the new terminal without knowing what the final building would look like in terms of interior space and where all of the electrical, mechanical and plumbing elements would go.
To be sure, most of the attention is focused on keeping things humming at Lindbergh.
Lindbergh is the busiest single-runway commercial airfield in the U.S., the world’s second most active after London’s Gatwick, with 600 departures and arrivals ferrying up to 50,000 air travelers daily.
“When you do construction at an airport, whether it’s big or little, you’re always working around a 7/24 operation,” said Enarson. “Our number one goal after a safe and secure project is to make sure we don’t interfere any more than necessary with the flow of passengers and airplanes. We have to keep getting people on those planes and out of here.”
Tom York is a contributing editor for the San Diego Business Journal.