As travel demand grows at San Jose International Airport, so does concern over climate-impact

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- San Jose's international airport claims to be the fastest-growing in the country for five years.

However, it's facing challenges. The volume of passengers using all eight TSA security checkpoint lanes in Terminal B is often backed up during peak periods.

While six new gates were added in a temporary terminal last year, no new baggage facilities were added to match increased passenger traffic.

So, plans are underway to build a new Terminal C with a total of 12 gates and more security and baggage handling capacity.

As it works on the project's environmental impact study, concern is growing over increased emissions that some have estimated to be the equivalent of adding 28,000 vehicles to our roads.

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"Our challenge as an airport is to accommodate that increase in demand as responsibly as we can both to serve our passengers and to be good stewards of the environment," said Scott Wintner, Mineta San Jose Airport's deputy communications director.

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District is among those raising concerns. Its analysis is that expansion will raise emissions by 0.15%. By 2030, it would require a 40% reduction in emissions, regionally below 1990 standards to offset the increased jet engine emissions.

"The reality is those emissions are coming whether we build more or not," said the airport's Wintner. "As long as people want to travel, airlines are going to bring planes in to take them where they want to go."

The airport and the city's mayor think there are ways to mitigate the increase in aircraft emissions.

"We have launched the largest all-electric bus fleet of any airport in the country," said Mayor Sam Liccardo. "We are introducing today what I hope will be the start of an incentive program to encourage airlines to use electric and hybrid and low emission fuels."

While critics say there should be fewer plane and car trips to improve air quality in the future, Mineta San Jose is projecting a three percent increase in passenger traffic annually for the foreseeable future.
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