The Silicon Valley Voice

Power To Your Voice

Complex Plan to Update San Jose Airport Underway

The City of San Jose is working on passing an amendment to the Mineta San Jose International Airport (SJC) Master Plan. The Master Plan covers improvements and construction projects for the entire airport that covers a 1,000-acre site two miles north of downtown San Jose. The current Master Plan was adopted in 1997 and guides the airport’s design capacity and improvements needed for forecasted demand through 2027. If approved by City Council, the amendment would extend the project planning related to forecasted demand out to 2037.

“Demand is up and that’s been the case for the past five to six years,” said Rosemary Barnes, SJC public information officer. “There’s increased demand in Silicon Valley and we had record passenger traffic in 2018 — it’s expected to grow even more.”

The most recent update to the aviation demand forecast was conducted in 2017 and was the main reason for the proposed amendment. A comparison of annual air passenger activity levels at SJC showed 8.2 million passengers in 2010, jumping to 12.5 million travelers in 2017. The forecast for 2037 is 22.5 million.

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“Improving our transportation infrastructure is really important to continuing the growth we’ve had in this area,” said Nick Kaspar, president of the Santa Clara Chamber of Commerce. “As Santa Clara is within four miles of the San Jose Airport, the city will only benefit from making it easier for visitors to come and do business here. The airport’s expansion will mean more companies holding their conventions in Santa Clara instead of San Francisco or Oakland.”

The majority of the 73 capital improvement projects that resulted from the existing plan have already been constructed including the lengthening of two runways, taxiway improvements, new passenger terminals, aviation facilities, parking garages and a new fuel storage facility. Some remaining projects still on the horizon are further taxiway upgrades, a new air cargo facility, expansion of support facilities and a new aviation facility.

The proposed amendment would “incorporate the set of airfield configuration changes recommended” in a recent analysis study and “update the layout and sizing of various landside facilities to adequately serve the projected 2037 demand.”

A final draft for the proposal has yet to be reached due to continuing deliberations by various agencies. A public scoping meeting for the amendment’s Environmental Impact Report was held on Jan. 14, with another public meeting on Jan. 28. Planners also met with the San Jose Airport Commission this month to discuss the myriad of topics tangential to the amendment. The plan is scheduled to go before City Council on Feb. 12 when all issues pertaining to the plan will be discussed including what it means for San Jose’s downtown economy and traffic impacts.

“It’s a very complex process and we just need to continue vetting the plan and understanding the analysis before it goes to Council,” said Barnes. “There’s discussion about air traffic flow, examining historical data, future projections for meteorological conditions, working with airlines and talking about what the future holds for aircraft technology. There’s a lot to factor-in in terms of where we now and where we might be in the future.”

Because the plans are still in development, City of Santa Clara staff have not yet commented on what the airport amendment could mean for the city. According to Santa Clara’s director of communications, Lenka Wright, the City will be involved in the Environmental Impact Report process for the Master Plan amendment, and is currently reviewing the scope of the proposal to determine if there will be any resulting changes to traffic volume or flight paths. Staff will also be interested in looking at a noise analysis.

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