Airport agency settles on $145 million budget; 6.5% boost adds aid for Lindbergh plans

SAN DIEGO -- Regional airport officials yesterday approved a $145 million operations budget that includes more money to help map out improvements at Lindbergh Field.

The 2007-08 spending plan, effective July 1, represents a 6.5 percent increase over the current San Diego County Regional Airport Authority budget.

It includes additional funds to flesh out plans for major changes at Lindbergh for the next decade or more, including $243,300 to expand the agency's planning staff.

Seven months after voters rejected a proposal to pursue a new airport at Miramar Marine Corps Air Station, board chairman Alan Bersin and other officials are eager to move ahead with improvements at the Harbor Drive airfield.

The agency plans to complete a draft environmental impact report on the changes by early next year.

Among the ideas are adding at least 10 terminal gates, building a five-level parking garage and relocating the major car-rental companies from Harbor Drive to the northeast corner of the airport.

Approved on an unanimous vote, the authority budget also set aside $13 million for ongoing Harbor Police security at Lindbergh, a reflection of the facility's heightened state of alert since the Sept. 11 attacks. It includes more money to develop land-use plans for the county's 16 airports. Agency officials say they are working closely with cities and other jurisdictions to develop the plans.

Vernon Evans, the authority's vice president for finance, said the added expenses will be offset by a growth in revenue at Lindbergh. The increasingly congested airfield makes a sizable share of its money from landing fees and building rents.

The agency charges passenger and cargo carriers $2.14 for every 1,000 pounds landed. Terminal building rents will increase July 1 to $64.78 per square foot, from $59.70.

In recent months, several airlines have expanded or commenced service at Lindbergh, including ExpressJet, JetBlue and AirTran.

The authority board also improved a five-year, $335 million capital improvement budget that includes $7 million to demolish the old Teledyne Ryan site southeast of the runway.

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