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Officials say ABIA needs expansion to meet mega growth

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TWC News: Officials say ABIA needs expansion to meet mega growth
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The Austin-Bergstrom International Airport is only 13 years old, but airport managers say it's nearing capacity.

Last year, ABIA handled nearly 9.1 million passengers, and it’s only built to handle 11 million. While the Federal Aviation Administration estimates the airport will surpass capacity by 2018, ABIA officials say that could happen in just two years.

Monday, Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole and two council members were briefed on plans to meet the growing demand.

"We simply cannot not think about growth,” Cole said. “Whether we like it or not, the people are coming."

ABIA Executive Director Jim Smith says expansion is inevitable. The airport is about to undergo its first major expansion since it opened in 1999. It's estimated to cost about $40 million, and would be paid for through passenger fees ABIA collects with each landing.

"We physically don't have the space today to be able to accommodate any more,” Smith said. “The urgency is primarily driven by a need to expand security checkpoints now."

The expansion would create a new security checkpoint on the east end of the terminal which would include at least eight security lanes and four baggage carousels to keep up with demand.

"We think within the next two to three years, Austin will be generating the numbers of international traffic to warrant the very close scrutiny of a major airline to fly nonstop from Austin to Europe," Smith said.

If the project stays on track, construction would start September of next year. The new facilities would be in operation by mid-2015, pending council approval.

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