Hopkins Officials Show Their Future Vision

Officials of Cleveland Hopkins International Airport this week released details of a new master plan that will create an expanded terminal, provide more parking and establish a new entrance from nearby Interstate 71.

Under the proposal, the terminal will have five concourses, a centralized security checkpoint and a new location for customs inspections of international travelers.

The $2 billion plan was described by airport director Robert Kennedy in a meeting with a Cleveland City Council committee as an effort to create a mostly new airport that is easier to use and would provide larger, more modern facilities.

Airport officials acknowledged there is no guarantee their vision will be implemented.

A key sticking point is that the airport has yet to determine how it will pay for the plan.

Yet airport planner manager Nicholas Belluardo told council: “We did not propose a plan that is going to sit on a shelf.”

Much of the plan is expected to be paid for by airline user fees. The airport isn’t expected to begin discussing fees with its airlines for another couple of years.

Kennedy said officials are waiting for airlines to more fully recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic that sent airline travel plunging.

Many expect it will be two more years before the airline industry recovers from the pandemic.

The proposed changes at the airport would be phased in over a 20-year period.

Rebuilding the terminal would result in 29 percent of the airline terminal being renovated and the remaining 71 percent being brand new.

The existing terminal at Hopkins is an amalgamation of various components, some of which were built in the 1950s. Major renovations and expansions of the terminal took place in the 1970s and 1990s.

Kennedy said the first phase of the project is estimated to cost $780 million and begin in 2026. It would involve renovating the existing concourses A and C while replacing concourse B.

A new concourse E would extend south from the main terminal.

The newest part of the terminal, concourse D, would be razed. Built in 1999, it was created to serve small commuter-type aircraft for Continental Airlines, which at the time had a hub in Cleveland.

Continental has since merged with United Airlines, which closed the Cleveland hub in 2014.

Kennedy said concourse D, which currently is unused, was not built for the aircraft in use today at the airport. Renovating it would be more expensive than replacing it.

Since 2014, local travelers have begun making up most of those using Hopkins. Far fewer of the airport’s users are passengers making connections in Cleveland.

In the long term, concourse C will be replaced and a new concourse D will be built.

Kennedy said design work on the airport project won’t begin until financing is secured.

Creating a new entrance to Hopkins from I-71 will be a separate project funded by state and federal highway construction dollars.

Kennedy said airport officials want to reconfigure the entrance into the airport to remove traffic lights and straightening the pickup and drop-off areas at the front of the terminal. U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur has requested $2 million in federal transportation funding to finance the engineering and feasibility of the new I-71 interchange.

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