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New $2 Billion Cleveland Hopkins Airport Plan Calls for New Concourses

airplane taking off from airport
Denise Kappa
Cleveland Hopkins International Airport officials on Wednesday briefed Cleveland City Council on a 20-year, $2 billion master plan to build new concourses.

A 20-year master plan for Cleveland Hopkins International Airport envisions a larger terminal, new concourses and a redesigned traffic flow into the airport campus.

The city would make the changes in phases as the airport hits passenger growth benchmarks. The total cost is estimated at $2 billion.

“I’ve seen airports in almost 100 countries,” Director of Port Control Robert Kennedy said. “I’ve had the good pleasure of working with some of the finest airport organizations in the world. And there is, in my mind, no reason that Cleveland cannot be that as well.”

Airport officials briefed Cleveland City Council on the plan Wednesday ahead of a virtual public presentation in the evening.

Under the city’s preferred scenario, the airport would renovate Concourse A and rebuild Concourses B and C. The now-mothballed Concourse D, which has been sitting empty since 2014 when United pulled its hub out of Cleveland, would be demolished in favor of two new concourses branching off the main terminal area.

Overall, the scenario recommends rebuilding about 71 percent of the airport.

“It’s discouraging to learn that all of our existing infrastructure is so obsolete that it can’t be repurposed,” said Ward 15 Councilwoman Jenny Spencer, who had questions about the scope and cost of the project.

Airport officials decided building a new Concourse D and a small Concourse E made for a better use of land and shorter walking times for passengers, according to the presentation.

 Cleveland Hopkins International Airport master plan
City of Cleveland
The long-term vision for Cleveland Hopkins International Airport includes new concourses, an expanded terminal, more parking and a hefty price tag.

Ward 17 Councilman Charles Slife, who chaired the transportation committee meeting Wednesday, likened the plan to upgrading from an old car.

“We’re sort of driving like, a used Camry at this point, and this thing can go forever, but how many times are we going to spend $800 fixing the car?” Slife said. “At a certain point, maybe it’s a good idea to get that new car and have the extended warranty.”

The plan also recommends tying the airport directly to Interstate 71 via an elevated road, taking airport traffic off state Route 237.

The airport would not finance the expansion by drawing from the city’s general fund, the main source of money for city services, Kennedy said.

Instead, the city could pay off the debt from the project using the airport’s own revenues, including the per-flight facility fees charged to passengers, officials said. The airport also could look to government grants, or even Congressional earmarks, for support, Kennedy said.

Master planning, with all the engineering and research that goes into it, is the easy part, he said.

“The next part is the financing, and that’s the heavy lift, where we finance that first phase,” Kennedy said, a phase that could cost $780 million.

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Nick Castele was a senior reporter covering politics and government for Ideastream Public Media. He worked as a reporter for Ideastream from 2012-2022.