As MSP preps for millions more travelers, changes needed to avoid drop-off misery

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Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport is projected to see millions of more passengers in the next 20 years, which would further strain airport facilities.

MSP is forecasting 54 million passengers in 2035 – that's a 68.75 percent increase from the 32 million passengers that passed through the airport in 2014, according to the Metropolitan Airport Commission (MAC).

However, the number of aircraft taking off and landing at the airport is only expected to increase by 24 percent, from the 412,000 aircraft in 2014 to 511,000 in 2035 – which is less than the airport's historical peak of takeoffs and landings (roughly 540,000 in 2004), MAC notes.

While the airport's runway configuration is expected to meet future needs, the increase in passengers is expected to burden airport facilities that are already struggling to meet the needs of travelers, the organization says.

For example, the airport will have to account for the additional vehicles that come with increased travelers – that includes parking at the airport and increased traffic to drop off and pick up travelers.

"The parking facilities and curb fronts as they are today (particularly at Terminal 1) are inadequate to meet the projected demand for 2035," MAC says.

Projected passenger and aircraft figures like these are used to understand the deficiencies the airport may see in the future – including the configuration of airport gates and baggage handling facilities, among others – and how the airport can adjust to serve the travelers.

These ideas will be addressed in the MAC's 2035 Long Term Comprehensive Plan, which is published every five years as a way to look to the future of the airport and see what improvements it may need.

Some of the MAC's findings will be discussed at a pre-publication meeting Thursday night, where the public can learn about the MAC's plans for publishing the plan.

A draft is expected to be published in September. After that, there will be a 45-day public comment period, before the plan is approved by the MAC board.

However, approval doesn't mean the airport will move forward with any of the proposed remedies – it's an infrastructure planning tool, the MAC explains.

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