$1.3 billion in upgrades coming to Sacramento International Airport. Here’s what will change
Sacramento International Airport is poised for a $1.3 billion renovation.
The plan, which was formally announced at a news conference on Wednesday morning, includes:
▪ Six to eight new gates in Terminal B;
▪ A covered pedestrian walkway near the shuttle that carries people from the terminal’s main footprint to the gates, officially known as the Automated People Mover;
▪ An additional parking garage;
▪ A new consolidated car rental center;
▪ And a new ground transportation center.
The five-year plan, called SMForward, is built on a 20-year master plan developed in 2020. It has been delayed until now due to the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic decreased passenger demand for several years.
The long-term plan, beyond the next five years, suggests the possibility of a third terminal, light rail transit from downtown Sacramento and an expanded runway that could allow for larger aircraft that could travel to Europe.
But a key focus for the next few years is more gates.
The exact number of new gates to be built at the 19-gate Terminal B over the next five years will depend on ongoing assessments of passenger activity and discussions with airlines, said Stephen Clark, deputy director of airport commercial development for the Sacramento County Airport System.
He said the airport is looking at between six and eight new gates.
Parking needs at SMF
Airport spokesman Scott Johnston said the $1.3 million renovation plan for the airport will also include a new Terminal B parking garage to be built on the Terminal B Daily Parking Lot. He said the garage will help alleviate parking shortages.
He said the new garage will at first add 3,400 new parking spaces by 2027 but could be expanded later to more than 5,000 spaces.
Sacramento International currently has approximately 18,000 spaces, but on busy days it can be hard to find a spot.
He said additional uncovered economy spaces are also scheduled to be built.
Clark said a consolidated car rental facility will be built by Terminals A and B, allowing passengers to walk to a centralized building, instead of the current situation where they must take a shuttle bus to a remote part of the airport.
Another part of the plan, includes a centralized ground transportation hub, to be built between Terminals A and B. Airport officials said there will be dedicated parking spaces for rides-share companies, taxis and bus companies at the facility.
New walkway option
The plan will also include a new interior pedestrian walkway that can be an alternative to the Automated People Mover. The People Mover connects the two parts of Terminal B, the pre-security area with ticket counters and baggage claim and the post-security area with departure gates.
A master plan document presented to the County Board of Supervisors last year said the People Mover was not in compliance with federal requirements involving people with disabilities.
“If passengers require evacuation mid-trip, the incline of the existing APM system does not meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and some passengers could be faced with a potentially physically challenging situation,” the document states. “There is also no protection from the elements outside of the APM cars along the incline or between the terminal and concourse.”
Airport officials also said that the enclosed walkway could add more capacity for passengers between the two parts of the terminal, something that will be needed as more passengers use the airport.
The People Mover travels on 1,200 feet of track. The walkway, which would be about 900 feet, is expected to be completed early in the five-year plan. It could open in late 2025.
Airport officials expect all the projects to be completed by the end of 2027.
Travel expected to increase
It’s clear that the airport has largely recovered from the COVID-19 pandemic and officials expect growth in the coming years.
Air traffic collapsed in 2020 after COVID-19 surfaced, with passenger numbers dropping as low as 5% of normal at the Sacramento airport. That’s after three years of passenger growth of 10% each from 2016 through 2019.
Now, air traffic is back at Sacramento International to more than 90 percent of pre-COVID levels with slightly more than six million passengers boarding planes in 2022.
Airport projections show that number could reach more than eight million by 2028, justifying the need for the new gates.
Terminal B is the newer and larger of the two terminals at the airport. It cost slightly more than $1 billion to build and opened in 2011. The older Terminal A has 12 gates and a 13th gate that is currently inoperable. The terminal was renovated between 2017 and 2019.
Southwest, which dominates the Sacramento International in terms of flights, is located in Terminal B, but Clark said the new gates won’t necessarily go to Southwest. He said that would depend on airline interest and on whether airlines at Terminal A, which is home to United, American and Delta, could use Terminal B.
UPDATE: The upgrades related to the SMForward plan will take place over the next five years, according airport officials. The story has been updated to reflect that shorter expected timeline.