Airport terminal expansion gets informal nod from Sonoma County supervisors

The proposed $25 million addition would ease crowding as airport adds flights, but it depends on securing a federal grant.|

Given a PowerPoint-aided tour of a proposed $25 million addition to the terminal at the Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport, county supervisors on Tuesday approved of the project that comes with one large catch: it depends on securing a federal grant.

“It is a great airport to fly in and out of,” Board Chairman David Rabbitt said, noting it is “easy to park” and “people are friendly.”

“What you do there is so important for this county,” Supervisor Susan Gorin told the tour guide, Airport Manager Jon Stout.

Gorin personally values the United Airlines service to Denver started in March, facilitating visits to and from her grandchildren, 18 months and 4 years old.

But the airport, which started commercial service with about 109,000 passengers in 2007, is a bit of a victim of its own success, measured by carrying more than 440,000 passengers last year and nearly 90,000 in the first three months of this year.

The 15,000-square-foot terminal is already congested at peak midday hours, and the crowding will get worse as summer arrives with as many as 17 flights a day, Stout said.

There will be four flights in some two-hour periods, funneling up to 600 people through the terminal that houses airline ticket counters, baggage collection and various kiosks.

The proposed 30,000-square-foot expansion would include a two-lane passenger checkpoint, up to 350 seats, new restrooms, four more ticket counters, a new concession area and a larger “meet-and-greet” area for welcoming incoming passengers, Stout said.

But it all depends on approval of a $20 million grant from the Federal Aviation Administration, which has indicated a decision by the end of June, he told the supervisors.

The project will actually cost about $25 million, including a $2 million county match to the federal grant plus about $2.4 million for facilities ineligible for federal funding.

If the grant doesn’t come this year, Stout said in an interview he would apply again next year.

If the money comes in and all else goes well, the new terminal would be completed by the end of 2022.

Stout said the airport will connect flyers with 11 destinations when American Airlines adds service to Dallas in June.

“Our route map looks very good for an airport of our size,” he said.

Supervisor Shirlee Zane sounded a note of dismay when told that a new airport food service would not include alcohol. “Some of us like to drink before we get on a plane,” she said.

Rabbitt, an architect, said the terminal should present an appearance that is “worthy of our county.”

Supervisors also warmed up to Stout’s plan for a $10 million car rental center at the airport, funded by a $10 fee-per-car rental that initially could generate about $373,000 a year. By 2030, it would have a cumulative balance of $5 million.

The state does not levy a car rental tax but allows local jurisdictions to do so.

Supervisor Lynda Hopkins suggested the county could tap some of that revenue for road maintenance, reasoning that rental cars use county roads.

“Normally, California taxes everything,” she said.

The board took no official action on the terminal expansion or the car rental center.

You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 707-521-5457 or On Twitter @guykovner.

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