Austin’s airport has been one of the fastest growing in the country for several years. Their main terminal needs to grow to accommodate this – at peak times passengers are packed in so tight it’s barely possible to move. Gates are in constant use with no real room for more flights, either.
One way the city-controlled airport planned to manage growth was with a separate ‘South Terminal’ for low cost carriers. They leased space to a private company for 40 years, which built the terminal, and has been housing Allegiant and Frontier. The terminal is just six years old, but the airport changed its mind.
The new plan is for a midfield concourse that requires an underground tunnel and relocating taxiways. And to accommodate that they need to tear down the South Terminal. So they:
- Offered less than $2 million to buy out the lease though the terminal cost 5 to 10 times that much to construct.
- Naturally rejected, they moved forward with eminent domain to take back the terminal.
This was a very strange use of eminent domain, which is supposed to allow government to forcibly take private property, with compensation, for a public use. But here they were trying to take public property that they already own.
The private company which built the terminal sued, winning a $90 million judgment in February. The city made noises about an appeal, but underscoring just how weak their case was the City Council agreed to pay out an $88 million settlement using airport funds.
Austin airport needs to grow. This is a plan to grow, although initially the midfield concourse may only offer 10 new gates and they lose capacity by eliminating the South Terminal as well. In order to build the connection from the main terminal to the new concourse, they’re going to lose gates, which is why they’re first building new gates on the West side of the terminal.