Thursday, October 12, 2000
NEW CUSTOMS BUILDING
PRIMITIVE FACILITY FOR INTERNATIONAL TRAVELERS TO BE REPLACED
A start on airport's latest buzz
The $45 million facility, to open in 2002, will eliminate the bus ride across the tarmac and include, in addition to inspection stations, duty-free shops, food and beverage concessions and an airline club lounge.
BY FRANK SWEENEY
The San Jose (CA) Mercury News
International travelers arriving at San Jose Airport have to pass through a cluster of portable buildings that serve as a Customs checkpoint, then pile on a bus and ride across the tarmac to the terminals. That will all change in 2002, when the airport will open a new interim $45 million federal inspection facility to handle the hundreds of thousands of international travelers who pass through the airport each year. A pedestrian
bridge will connect the building to Terminal A. Airport, city and federal officials gathered under a big tent on the airport ramp Wednesday for the official grounundbreaking ceremony, their speeches often drowned out by roaring jets.
When completed in the summer of 2002, the three-story building will be connected to Terminal A.
``No more bus ride,'' said airport director Ralph Tonseth, ``and we're as happy about that as the airlines are.''
The Customs office will eventually be moved to a new international terminal, which is expected to be completed by 2010.
For 10 years, international passengers have disembarked flights at the modular building isolated a half-mile south of the terminal complex to be
cleared through Customs, immigration and other federal inspections. It can accommodate only one flight at a time, and there are no jet bridges to protect travelers from bad weather, nor amenities for weary passengers
who have just endured 12-hour flights.
The new building will replace what Tonseth called ``the old trailer park.'' It will handle three aircraft at a time, with jet bridges for passengers. At 70,000 square feet, it will be nearly three times as large as the old
building. Inside, in addition to inspection facilities, will be duty-free shops, food and beverage concessions and an airline club lounge.
``This will be a wonderful greeting place for visitors to Silicon Valley,'' San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales said.
The building will have offices for the U.S. Customs Service, Public Health Services, Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of Agriculture and Immigration and Naturalization Service.
Tonseth said San Jose now handles more than 300,000 international travelers a year, out of the 12.6 million annual passengers.
``And the forecast is for 10 times as many in 10 years,'' Tonseth said. ``International travel is one of our fastest-growing segments.''
Airlines offer international service to Mexico, Canada and Japan. On April 1, American Airlines is scheduled to begin non-stop service to Paris and Taiwan.
San Jose Airport is in the beginning stages of a $1.5 billion development program that includes new runways, air cargo facilities, parking garages and terminal expansions.