An Airport Fit for Silicon Valley

High tech and high gloss - Mineta San Jose's new Terminal B is nearly complete.

35 photos
Thom Kaine; Joan Marcus, below
NBC Bay Area
After several years of construction, the new Terminal B at Mineta San Jose International Airport is nearly complete. It is partially in use now and will open officially on June 30th.
Terminal B is part of a larger airport modernization project. The remodeling and new construction include: bright, spacious terminals; jetways, so passengers won't have to walk outside to planes; local restaurants and shops; plentiful power outlets; state-of-the-art security screening; rebuilt runways; and a more convenient and efficient rental car facility.
Gabrielle Coleman
Once Terminal B is finished, airlines like Alaska and Horizon will be moved in from Terminal C, and Terminal C will be demolished.
Gabrielle Coleman
Sections of the new terminal - like the baggage claim area - are already in use. Eventually, there will be a Starbucks in the boxed-off construction area on the left. The "Starbucks store kit" is in transit now.
Gabrielle Coleman
These new Southwest gates will be the next to open.
Gabrielle Coleman
Furniture is still being arranged in this Southwest Airlines gate area. Southwest is the biggest carrier at SJC, accounting for over half of all flights, according to Communications Director, David Vossbrink. Alaska Airlines is second, with about 12%.
Gabrielle Coleman
These luxurious chairs are courtesy of Southwest. The tables between them have 3-prong and USB power outlets.
Gabrielle Coleman
Providing high-tech necessities was a top priority for airport designers.
Gabrielle Coleman
One in every four seats in the gate area will have built-in power and the airport will continue to provide free wi-fi.
Gabrielle Coleman
Gates will be opened in phases as they're ready. Gates 1-22 are already open and Southwest's Gates 23-25 should be operational by mid-June.
Gabrielle Coleman
Jetways! Walking outside to board is a great way to enjoy California's climate, but the new jetways are much more modern (and dry!)
Gabrielle Coleman
A view underneath one of the new jetways
Gabrielle Coleman
The food court (which will be behind the wall on the right) and gift shops are still under construction. SJC will have a lot of local favorites, like C.J. Olson Cherries, Original Joe's and Hicklebee's bookstore.
Gabrielle Coleman
The high tech art installation "eCloud" will hang at the entrance to the food court. These panels appear solid or transparent depending on weather data from airports around the US.
Floor and wall tiles are still being cut and installed in the food court area. Says SJC Communications Director David Vossbrink, "This is the last stage - getting the stores in."
Gabrielle Coleman
SJC Communications Director, David Vossbrink, (in this photo) says that moving the airlines while they are actively operating is one of the biggest challenges of this phase of the project. Another one: communicating the changes to passengers. According to Vossbrink, frequent flyers will have the toughest adjustment, because they're the most accustomed to the old layout.
Gabrielle Coleman
On their way up to security, travelers will pass by the interactive scupture "Space Observer" (on the right.)
Gabrielle Coleman
Sensors on the sculpture make it reach and spin in response to visitors' movement. Cameras on its "arms" feed live video to monitors on its "body."
Gabrielle Coleman
Passengers will come up the escalators from ticketing, then go down this hallway to security. The airport designers created a spacious security area to make screening less stressful.
Gabrielle Coleman
All passengers - domestic and international - will go through new full-body scanners at security. Anyone who's uncomfortable with the scan can request a hand pat-down by TSA agents instead.
Thom Kaine; Joan Marcus, below
The view from the Terminal B security area
Gabrielle Coleman
The future ticketing area of Terminal B is on the ground level. Because of the recession and a spike in fuel prices before that, travel at SJC has dropped by about 25% over the last three years.
Gabrielle Coleman
The new baggage claim in Terminal B is being used for Terminal C's flights since the old claim area has been demolished to make way for a road.
Gabrielle Coleman
"It's like one of those puzzles with the sliding squares and only one free space," says SJC Communication Director, David Vossbrink, about the challenge of juggling airport functions during construction.
Gabrielle Coleman
SJC will have one of the most advanced baggage screening and sorting process in the world.
Gabrielle Coleman
$41 million for this system came from TSA grants and federal stimulus funds.
Gabrielle Coleman
Sensors along the conveyor will adjust belt speed to keep luggage from piling up. They will also read the barcodes on individual bags, track them and direct the system to transport them to the right planes.
Gabrielle Coleman
Mineta San Jose International will also be the first airport to get these state-of-the-art GE baggage scanners. If the bag scans as "suspicious," an automated system will bring the bag back through for a second scan. If it fails inspection again, a TSA agent will be called to hand search it. (Full disclosure - NBC is owned by GE)
Gabrielle Coleman
The eight new baggage scanners will take the place of 24 conventional x-ray machines.
Gabrielle Coleman
Construction continues outside as well.
Gabrielle Coleman
The airport was able to install these 4,700 solar panels thanks to savings during other parts of construction and state solar rebates. Even though these panels will supply 20% of the power to the garage, without the rebates, they would not have been cost-effective to install.
Laid out end-to-end, these panels would be four miles long.
Gabrielle Coleman
SJC is a self-sustaining business, and according to Communications Director, David Vossbrink, one of the biggest challenges in renovating the airport is to keep things cost effective for the airlines. Says Vossbrink, "We don't just compete with Oakland and San Francisco - we're up against other airports like Phoenix and Atlanta, too." He explains: airlines choose routes based on how much profit they can make off that route. If they can make more flying between Phoenix and Arizona than they do between San Jose and Denver, then that's what they'll do. (In this photo: the entry way to the new baggage claim area being used temporarily by Terminal C flights)
Gabrielle Coleman
If you'd like to see Terminal B without having to fly, there will be an open house at the end of June. Sign-ups will be on the airport's website:
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