Oakland's Contortionists

OAKLAND’S CONTORTIONISTS A commissioned study helps reclaim acres thought to be wetlands By Lindsay M. Hitch, Assistant Editor October 2001 OAKLAND — Working around wetlands has been a fact of life in developing airports for...


Oakland’s Airport Development Program

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Expansion projects include additional
cargo space for FedEx and other carriers

Although the wetlands delineation was a project in and of itself, the airport is in need of some major improvements, and will have them soon.

Oakland’s airport development program consists of 18 separate projects in cargo facilities, terminal expansion, parking, roadways, and other landside areas. There is little planned for the airfield aside from minor improvements, although the airport will have additional ramp space for aircraft parking overnight.
In the late ’80s, Federal Express decided to make Oakland Int’l its West Coast hub. The airport’s cargo facilities are now dominated by FedEx and UPS and serve a number of other carriers as well.
"Nationwide, we are the 13th largest air cargo airport. And in the world I think we’re 25th," says Cyndy Johnson, aviation marketing and media relations.
Development plans include new cargo areas. Of note is a planned multi-tenant cargo facility that will service operators who will only use the airport once or twice a week and don’t want to establish a base.
Terminal expansion is also a major part of the development plans. After Southwest Airlines initiated service in 1989, the airport saw a sharp increase in passenger traffic. With cheaper fares and the option to avoid Bay Bridge traffic, much of the population east of San Francisco Bay began to take advantage of flights out of Oakland. Johnson estimates that the airport is handling 4 to 5 million more passengers each year than its "comfort" capacity.
The new terminal will have 12 gates, a 50 percent increase for Oakland, and a double-level roadway with ticketing and departures on the upper level and arrivals and baggage claim on the lower level.
Kristi McKenney, aviation planning manager, adds, "This is by no means a build it and they will come. This is they’re already here, we need a place for them to go."
Additional plans include:
• Airport roadway project
• Airport Drive access reconfiguration
• Parking garage
• Replacement parking lots (during construction of garage)
• Replacement rental car facilities (relocated to garage upon completion)
• Runway 11/29 taxiway access widening
• Taxiway U widening
• North Field replacement T-hangar facilities
• Provisioning building (in-flight catering, etc.)
• Ground equipment service center
• Jet fuel dispensing facility
• United Airlines maintenance base expansion

"At the end of the day, after going through and massaging the projects down to keeping them on as much upland or existing developed property as possible, we ended up with 7.76 acres of wetlands that would need to be filled to build all of these projects," says McKenney.
McKenney stresses that those 7.76 acres are not contiguous, but rather 0.4 acres of a ditch, 0.1 acres somewhere else, an acre in another area, etc.
"They’re very much discreet little pieces of drainage channels, of other things. Some of them we’ve determined in our new map wouldn’t even be considered wetland anymore. But at that time, we accepted them; we’re mitigating for them anyway," says McKenney. "So our argument was twofold. One, that we were developing about 160 acres of paved area in an area with this many wetlands, and yet only taking 7.8 acres. And two, that those acres were all at the edges, bits and pieces."

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