In 1957, when 6,000 acres (2,428 hectares) north of Sacramento were set aside for a new airport, some thought the plan was expensive and unnecessary. But when Sacramento Municipal Airport opened ten years later, it immediately exceeded projections, serving more than a million passengers in its first year.
Some forty years later, the renamed Sacramento International Airport was serving almost nine million passengers per year. The original 14-gate terminal building, now known as Terminal B, was showing its age. Airport officials considered it antiquated, saying that the tight entrances on the upper concourse were unsuitable for federal security checkpoints. Southwest Airlines, which accounts for more than half the airport’s flights, moved its operations to the new Terminal A, which was completed in 1998.
In 2008, the County of Sacramento broke ground on the largest capital improvement project in its history. The “Big Build” would replace the old Terminal B with a new complex three times the size.
The two parts of the new complex would be connected by an automated people mover that would carry passengers along an S-shaped skyway at about 20 miles per hour (32 kph). The trip between buildings would take only 45 seconds, and the system would carry up to 3,000 passengers per hour in each direction.
As civil consultant on the project Mott MacDonald executed the design development and final design phases of the Terminal Modernization Plan, including the following:
- Automated People Mover structures
- Passenger boarding bridges and ramp services
- HVAC, fuel, and water facilities
- Jet blast fence analysis
Mott MacDonald also introduced an integrated ramp services approach to provide effective facilities to the 23 gates in the new Terminal B concourse building. We were responsible for the new Terminal B’s roadways, structures, and facilities, including these:
- Landside roads
- Parking lot modifications
- Site lighting
- Terminal area drainage
- Roadway signage
Mott MacDonald worked with a variety of standards:
- Sacramento County standards
- CalTrans design standards (where county standards were less developed)
- American Association of Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) standards
- Guidance in FAA advisory circulars
The billion-dollar Big Build project was completed in October 2011, $65 million under budget and four months ahead of schedule. The new terminal was built to last 50 years without any major upgrades. The airport is now considered capable of handling up to 16 million passengers a year.
The new terminal incorporated so many sustainability features that it received the LEED Silver certification from Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. Clerestories and extensive glass curtain walls maximize natural light in the new terminal, with low-E glass and integrated solar shading to minimize heat gain. Eco-friendly blue and green terrazzo floor tile symbolizes the importance to Sacramento of agriculture and water resources.
One hundred thousand board feet of old-growth redwood was recovered from the abandoned Franklin Boulevard/Thornton Road Bridge and incorporated in the high, curved ceiling. The building’s roof is heat-reflecting, and nine acres (3.6 hectares) of asphalt were replaced with drought-tolerant landscaping.
“The Sacramento International Airport is vital to our region’s economic vitality,” said Congresswoman Doris Matsui in July 2012, receiving an $8 million FAA grant. “The new Terminal B is a premier gateway to Sacramento and this funding will help ensure that passengers have a positive, seamless travel experience and that the airport continues to operate as efficiently as possible.”
According to the airport’s data, each year the airport creates 11,000 jobs with a payroll of $442.5 million, and contributes about $4 billion to the local economy. An estimated 2,400 jobs were created during the design and construction of Terminal B, with an estimated economic impact of $2.1 billion throughout the region.