PLACERVILLE, CALIFORNIA
AN AUTOMATED people mover transports passengers to their departure gates. Photo courtesy Sacramento County Airports

AN AUTOMATED people mover transports passengers to their departure gates. Photo courtesy Sacramento County Airports

Opinion

California rambling: Sacramento takes flight

By From page A4 | February 06, 2012

A city’s first impression is often made by its airport, and with the completion of construction on Sacramento International Airport’s Terminal B, the capital city’s image is taking flight.

Flying through Sacramento has long been a breeze compared to most other California airports. Now, it’s both easy and pleasurable. That’s saying a lot, considering that air travel has the reputation today of being more of a hassle than fun. What makes the new terminal (which houses ticketing, gates and baggage claim areas for Aeromexico, Alaska/Horizon, American, Frontier, Hawaiian, JetBlue and Southwest) so hospitable is its thoughtful design.

Terminal B is loaded with considerate features that recognize it’s not easy flying these days, including: restrooms that accommodate carry-on baggage, plentiful departure gate seating, an integrated international arrival area, lots of outlets and USB ports to charge mobile phones, tablets and laptops, and quality restaurants the likes of Esquire Grille, Dos Coyotes and Jack’s Urban Eats, to give travelers a taste of local fare.

Corgan and Associates, in association with Fentress Architects, even thought of placing rocking chairs on the third floor transfer level to provide greeters an appreciated place to sit, as they wait for others to land.

As a result, the new terminal has been receiving acclaim, far and wide. PC World magazine recently ranked it as the fifth-most tech-friendly airport in the U.S., thanks to its abundance of outlets and free WiFi. Other design elements make it easier to pick up and drop off passengers, by using a multi-level design that separates departure and arrival traffic, easing congestion that was common previously. And, Sacramento International’s reputation for quirky public art continues with a massive red rabbit taking a whimsical leap into the baggage claim area… sure to evoke smiles after a tiring flight.

The 56-foot-long, 10,000-pound sculpture, designed by Denver artist Lawrence Argent is titled “Leap” and described by the artist as a metaphor for travelers arriving and leaping into the unknown. Jack rabbits are similarly common on the airport grounds, though obviously neither as red or as big.

Size matters inside the 670,000-square-foot Terminal B complex, whose daytime spaces – three times bigger than the 44-year-old terminal it replaced — are flooded with dappled sunlight. The interior of the new terminal evokes the tree-lined streets of downtown Sacramento. Redwood posts, reclaimed from an historical bridge that once spanned the Mokelumne River, form the terminal’s curved ceiling.

Drought-resistant landscaping, storm water management, low-energy lighting and low-flow plumbing have contributed to the new terminal’s goal to achieve a silver level LEED certification for its environmentally sustainable design and winning a $150,000 energy rebate from the Sacramento Municipal Utility District.

The $1 billion cost to build Terminal B was funded using airport revenue bonds, federal grants and operating revenue; 2,500 construction jobs were supported during the five-year time it took to build the terminal. No local tax dollars were used to fund its construction or for continued operation of the Sacramento County Airport System. As an enterprise fund, the airport must generate its own revenue to support its operations.

Sacramento International Airport serves as the front door to the greater Sacramento area and Northern California. As flight schedules and services expand, opportunities for economic development and tourism expand not just for Sacramento County, but also for El Dorado, Placer, Yolo and other counties throughout our region. The airport’s 130 daily nonstop flights to 28 cities in the U.S. and Mexico generates some $4 billion in economic benefit to the region, each year.

Of course, few passengers are satisfied by such numbers when they’re inconvenienced. The new terminal design minimizes wasted time or energy, though some new changes are confusing. Parking is one of them.

Signs directing people to park are unclear. The natural tendency is to drive to your departure terminal, but the only parking area now available at Terminal B is costly hourly parking. To park in mid-priced daily parking, you have to turn toward Terminal A and park in the multi-level garage between Terminals A and B, then walk to Terminal B via a suspended walkway.  Economy parking is in a large open lot near the airport entrance.

Confusion about how to find daily parking for the new terminal seems to be its only criticism expressed in reviews and on social media, as Sacramento International’s new Terminal B has made a very good first impression.  For more about the airport, visit sacramento.aero/smf.

John Poimiroo of El Dorado Hills is a travel writer who specializes in California destinations.

John Poimiroo

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