SAN FRANCISCO - San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders and officials from across San Diego County late Monday announced a $4 billion plan to renovate Lindbergh Field, the city's main commercial airport.

The plan, dubbed Destination Lindbergh, would add 10 passenger gates, expand taxiways, and create a new intermodal transit center that would bring bus, trolley, train, and rental car service to one airport destination, while expanding parking and easing passenger drop-offs and loading.

The plan does not address the airport's biggest capacity constraint, the fact that it has just one runway. Lindbergh is nestled on a small strip of land between Interstate 5 and the San Diego Harbor. It's one of the smallest major airports in the nation, with just 661 acres of land, and is projected to reach full capacity by 2015.

"The options for building a new airport for San Diego are extremely limited," Sanders said. "Until there is a viable site, we must do everything we can to make sure that Lindbergh operates as smoothly as possible."

San Diego residents have spent decades debating possible replacements and expansions of the airport. San Diego County voters in 2006 rejected a plan to build a new commercial airport at the Miramar Marine Corps Air Station, prompting a search for ways to expand capacity at Lindbergh.

Sanders chaired an ad-hoc regional airport committee that was formed to develop a consensus proposal for expanding the airport's capacity. The committee also included representatives of the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority, the San Diego Association of Governments, the U.S. Department of Defense, and San Diego County Board of Supervisors.

The project would cost about $4 billion in current dollars, Sanders said. He said it would be financed by a combination of federal transportation dollars and airport revenue bonds.

Sanders spokesman Bill Harris said it's too early in the planning process to know exact costs or financing plans. The preliminary plan will eventually have to be approved by local governments and the airport authority's board.

The airport authority is governed by a 12-member board, including members appointed by the mayor of San Diego, the county sheriff, and the governor of California. The airport's staff was involved in drafting the proposal.

The ad-hoc committee plans to spend the coming weeks soliciting public input on the plan and presenting it to other local leaders.

The region's airport planning paralysis has left it with little airport debt. The San Diego County Regional Airport Authority had just $50 million of revenue bonds and $49.4 million of commercial paper outstanding as of June 30, 2008. The authority was last in the long-term muni market in October 2005, when it sold $56.3 million of airport revenue refunding bonds.

The airport authority's debt is rated A-plus by Fitch Ratings and Standard & Poor's and A1 by Moody's Investors Service.

Subscribe Now

Independent and authoritative analysis and perspective for the bond buying industry.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.