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Sacramento airport’s Terminal B complex to open early

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Sacramento International Airport’s nearly $1.1 billion Central Terminal B complex is expected to open this fall – months earlier than originally scheduled.

When construction began in 2008, the terminal project was expected to cost $1.27 billion and was scheduled to open in spring of 2012.

The project will open months ahead of that because of changes in construction plans due to the recession. Plans for a hotel and new parking garage were dropped to save money. A new garage will be built once there is enough need. Other cost savings were found during a simultaneous design and construction phase, , airport spokeswoman Gina Swankie said.

The construction schedule was later revised to reflect those changes. However, Sacramento County Airport System officials don’t consider the complex to be under-budget or ahead of schedule, Swankie said.

"The project is on-time and on-budget," Swankie said. " ‘Ahead of schedule’ is a bit of a fallacy given the changes to the construction program."

Airport officials will hold a press conference at the California State Fair at 5 p.m. Friday to announce the terminal’s opening date. The project has been dubbed "The Big Build" because it’s the county’s largest capital improvement program to date.

"We are expecting a fall opening," Swankie said.

The terminal and concourse that make up the 675,000-square-foot complex will replace the 44-year-old Terminal B and an interim international arrivals building used to accommodate U.S. customs. The complex is being built for $1.08 billion.

Electric train cars will be used to transport passengers from the landside terminal to the airside concourse, which is a separate building 1,200 feet away.

The new complex was designed to fit air travel needs after the Sept. 11 airplane attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

Airports are being designed differently because security screening processes have changed and use more equipment. Travelers now spend longer periods in airport security processing and must get to the airport earlier than before, which has led to increased demands for restaurants and other retail operations, according to Swankie.

The complex will feature local restaurants including Jack’s Urban Eats, Burgers and Brew, Esquire Grill and Cafeteria 15L, Davis-based Dos Coyotes and coffee from Old Soul Co. A 56-foot leaping red rabbit sculpture by Denver artist Lawrence Argent will be located in the baggage claim area as part of an $8 million public art program.

The new complex uses sustainable building practices such as natural lighting, drought-resistant landscaping, storm-water management, recycled materials, low-energy lights and low-flow plumbing fixtures. Old-growth redwood posts that were once part of the Franklin-Thornton Bridge over the Mokelumne River have been used in the terminal’s ceiling.

The original Terminal B is 216,000 square feet and currently has 10 operational gates, for a combined total of 23 gates with Terminal A.

The Central Terminal B complex will open with 19 gates that can handle 10 million passengers annually and has the potential to expand to 27 gates.

The airport’s total passenger capacity will be 16 million a year. In 2010, the airport had nearly 9 million passengers, Swankie said.

The airport is currently served by 11 airlines, after Aloha Airlines and Mexicana Airlines ceased operation. Aeromexico will join the airport Saturday, bringing the total to 12.

The new international arrivals facility, which will be located on the concourse’s ground level, will have two airplane parking positions and be able to handle 400 passengers an hour. If the complex is expanded, space for more planes can be added and the facility could handle up to 800 people an hour, Swankie said.

The original Terminal B and the international arrivals building will be demolished.

A 2011 time capsule will be installed at the site soon after opening. The exact location will be determined later, Swankie said.

The opening had been set for November but was changed to an earlier date to give people enough time to become familiar with the new facility before the busy holiday season.

"You don’t open it during the holiday when your most inexperienced travelers are coming into the airport," Swankie said. "You don’t want to add another element of uncertainty into their travel. It’s confusing enough." 


Suzanne Hurt is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press. Follow her on Twitter @SuzanneHurt.

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