CLEVELAND — Big and bold, that’s how a proposed overhaul of Cleveland Hopkins International Airport is being described. The plans are part of the airport’s new master plan rolled out on Wednesday to City Council’s Transportation Committee.
The transformative 20-year master plan rolled out for Cleveland City Council's Transportation Committee calls for $2 billion worth of upgrades to the airports aging terminals and overall campus.
"Our land side operations, our roadways, our parking, our rental car, all of that was not ever considered for the type of airport that we are now," said Airport Director Robert Kennedy.
Cleveland Hopkins was hit hard during the pandemic seeing a 60% drop in airline passengers in line with the industry as a whole, but studies show the rebound in Cleveland is occurring at a faster pace and they expect the number of flyers to grow over the next 20 years and to adequately accommodate them, the airport itself needs to grow.
When the airport was a hub, a large number of travelers that came through the airport never left the grounds, but today 98% of travelers start or end their flight in Cleveland so the need is great to create more walkable parking spots, more ticketing and check-in space and security screening areas large enough to handle the volume in a post 9-11 era.
As a result, the major part of the plan calls for the overhaul of the concourses, with four of them totally being built anew and only one being renovated in part because of their age, over 65 years old in some cases.
"Many of these facilities, they're past their useful life so a program that is associated with more new construction vs. renovation is going to be in the long term much more beneficial," said Dennis Kramer, chair of planning and engineering.
The roadways around the airport would also be redesigned with an elevated connecting road tied directly to Interstate 71 built to eliminate all airport traffic from State Route 237.
"Approximately 95% of airports in the country, similar sized to us or larger have a configuration of just like this where they have a direct connection to a major interstate," Kramer said.
Airport leaders stress the $2 billion price tag is not one that would be footed by local taxpayers but 100% user fee funded with the work occurring in phases over the next 20 years to allow for the airport to remain operational.
The master plan has been in the works for more than a year and a half will go to the FAA for a six-month review.