Most of Lindbergh Field's passenger and transit services would be shifted to the north side of the airport if a proposed $4 billion improvement project unveiled Monday goes forward.
The project, which would be completed in three phases through 2030, would create a transit center that would link train, bus and trolley service to the airport and eventually high-speed rail.
It would include a new passenger terminal, parking lots, rental car hub and direct access to the airport from Interstate 5.
Officials envision that passengers would check in on the north side of Lindbergh Field, along Pacific Highway, before boarding a subway that would transport them under the runway to the airport's gates.
"This project would not only transform the way travelers use our airport, it would cut down the traffic congestion around Lindbergh,'' Mayor Jerry Sanders said.
The proposal does not include plans to build a second runway at Lindbergh Field and will not require any land be ceded from Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, the mayor said.
It follows eight-months of meetings by the Ad Hoc Airport Regional Policy Committee, which retained a Houston-based consulting firm to analyze possible improvements to Lindbergh Field.
The ad-hoc committee, chaired by Sanders, includes officials from the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority, San Diego Association of Governments, Port of San Diego, San Diego County, Metropolitan Transit System, North County Transit District and the U.S. Defense Department.
The panel is scheduled to finalize its report on the so-called "Destination Lindbergh'' concept at a meeting Thursday.
The proposal will then go before the City Council and SANDAG in early March, before the Airport Authority considers it, Sanders said. If all the parties approve the project, a working group will be established to consider design, engineering and financing, he said.
The estimated $4 billion cost of the project could be financed through federal highway, airport and transit funds and by fees paid by passengers traveling in and out of Lindbergh Field, the mayor said.
The Airport Authority is already moving forward with $650 million in short-term improvements that will create 10 new gates and a two-tiered arrival and departure area at the existing terminals.
Alan Bersin, chairman of the Airport Authority, said the airport improvements envisioned by the ad-hoc committee effectively ends the debate about finding a new location for San Diego's airport.
"This is, for the first time since the 1950s in the city of San Diego, a resolution to the perennial debate over whether we should fix the airport or move it,'' Bersin said.
"The voters in 2006 made that decision - that San Diego International Airport at Lindbergh Field will remain a major component of San Diego's aviation future,'' he said.
San Diego voters in 2006 rejected a proposal that would have sought to move the airport to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar.