Thursday, May 29, 2003

Terminal expansion: Keep ahead of demand

Airport officials have developed a flexible 30-year plan for expanding terminal space to handle increased demand that may be generated by new runways under construction.

It should make Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport passenger- and airline-friendlier, centralize security and bring a stronger mix of airline competition. Estimated costs of $1.2 billion are very preliminary, no construction timeline or financing is set, and the airport board has yet to OK the master plan. But it's smart to have a design in place to keep CVG near the top of customer convenience surveys.

The consultants say the build-out over 30 years could handle double the current number of passengers and a 75 percent increase in takeoffs and landings, while enlarging the terminal-area footprint by only 50 percent. It also would free up 40 acres for development such as a new hotel, and streamline the airport interchange off I-275 routing ground transportation directly to a single centralized terminal - an expanded Terminal 3 (Delta). Terminals 1 and 2 would be eliminated. Security inspections would be centralized at a bigger checkpoint area in Terminal 3.

The plan calls for a new "Concourse D" connected to the terminal via underground train. Buses, now used for Comair's Concourse C, would be eliminated. The terminal expansion would boost flight gates from the current 119 to 155. It also would create more areas to hold aircraft, reducing delays.

The first two, and least expensive, construction phases would centralize the car-rental area and reconstruct the airport's I-275 interchange. Work could start within three years. A more direct access road would help. The later phases depend on demand and might not begin for 15 to 20 years. The consultants project growth in takeoffs and landings from 486,500 in 2002 to 855,000 by 2030. They project growth in passenger enplanements (on and off) from 10.4 million in 2002 to 25 million by 2030. If demand isn't that robust, the phases can be scaled back. The plan may need tweaking to keep passenger transfers to a minimum, from airport trains to trams or other people movers. But the broad strokes make sense for keeping the airport current as a powerful economic engine for this region.

Wednesday story: Airport plan's price tag: $1.2B

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