San Diego May Build Transit Hub at Airport

SAN DIEGO -- The future Lindbergh Field may include a transit hub linking planes, trains and automobiles.

The board that oversees the airport voted yesterday to study the idea, saying it might ease the growing traffic and parking headaches along Harbor Drive, at Lindbergh's doorstep.

The San Diego County Regional Airport Authority board asked its staff to look into placing a transit hub in the northeast corner of Lindbergh, next to Pacific Highway.

Airport officials said the project -- if planned in cooperation with other transportation agencies -- might include San Diego Trolley and Coaster stops, along with ramps to nearby Interstate 5.

A road would be built on airport land to shuttle travelers between the hub and Lindbergh's two terminals along the south side of the runway.

Officials with the San Diego Association of Governments said the hub idea has been raised before -- and remains worth exploring, especially in light of the growing congestion around the airport.

"You can only squeeze so many cars along Harbor Drive," said Gary Gallegos, SANDAG executive director.

Coincidentally, a SANDAG committee is scheduled this morning to discuss the transportation challenges around Lindbergh. A 2003 SANDAG study recommended new ramps linking Interstate 5 to the airport.

The airport authority decision to study a transit hub grew out of a lengthy discussion about the future of the cramped, single-runway airport.

More than six months after voters shot down a proposal to pursue a new airport at Miramar Marine Corps Air Station, the authority is trying a craft a new development plan for Lindbergh.

Among the proposals under study:

* Building a five-level parking garage.

* Adding 10 terminal gates to meet traveler demand.

* Placing the leading car-rental companies under one roof, possibly next to a transit hub.

The ideas are included in a draft environmental impact report that airport officials hope to complete by early next year.

Bob Watkins, a member of the authority's executive committee, said the creation of a transit hub would become more important if the terminals expand.

"As you go to build out more gates, you're going to be building in more congestion," he said.

Airport officials estimate that relocating the major car-rental firms to the northeast side of the airport from Harbor Drive would cut traffic on the waterfront thoroughfare by as much as 25 percent.

The authority board also discussed possibly boosting parking rates for long-term travelers to further reduce traffic on Harbor.

Lindbergh has 4,085 parking spaces, some 1,900 short of what it needs at peak periods.

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