Air traffic structure’s unique shape will be wedged into tiny space

Courtesy Rendering
Coming soon: A $105 million tower at San Francisco International Airport will provide air traffic controllers with a better view of the airfield.
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No need to panic, folks. That is an air traffic control tower, not a tornado.

Ground will break today on a slick, funnel-shaped tower at San Francisco International Airport that officials say will provide the best possible view of the airfield while making the airport’s skyline far more interesting.
The 221-foot-tall structure, slated to be fully operational in 2015, will replace the seismically unfit existing tower above Terminal 2.

Space constraints led to the tower’s unique design, SFO officials said.

The best possible spot — determined to be within a tight space between terminals 1 and 2 — required that the base of the tower be as narrow as possible, airport spokesman Michael McCarron said. That’s partly because the space still needs to house passenger and visitor corridors between terminals 1 and 2, he said.

The cab of the tower will be 650 square feet, according to city documents, and the funky sloped roof beneath it will offer air traffic controllers unrestricted views of the runways and gates.

Among the cool new amenities, the tower will offer a rooftop garden for employees and art exhibits in the public space near the tower’s base.

Officials say the construction of the $102 million tower is quite a feat considering budget constraints. The Federal Aviation Administration is pitching in $70 million.

“We had a pre-existing budget for the tower, and the architect designed the building to fit that budget,” FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said.

The tower’s construction will be completed by fall of 2014, and the FAA will spend another year equipping the space. Once the FAA is ready to work in the new tower, the existing tower will be torn down within 60 days.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Mayor Ed Lee will attend today’s groundbreaking. They say the “critical” new tower creates jobs and increases air travel safety.

maldax@sfexaminer.com

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