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With Austin's rapid growth, how does the airport plan to keep up?

Experts note airports must factor in not only terminals, runways and gates but also infrastructure on and around airport grounds.

AUSTIN, Texas — Holiday travel is set to ramp up again as Christmas and New Year's approach. And, as Austin grows, our city's airport is trying to keep up.

This year, Austin-Bergstrom International Airport has set and broken multiple passenger records, and staff say they're seeing no signs of a slowdown.

Twice this year, the airport has seen more than 2 million passengers come through in the span of a month. That was in May and last month in October.

The Sunday after Thanksgiving was also the second-busiest day in Austin airport's history.

"Every month since February, actually, we have set a new record for that month," said Sam Haynes, an Austin airport spokesperson.

With new records consistently being set comes growing pains, which travelers are continuing to notice.

"I think if we had more terminals, more baggage claim, all of those things would certainly be a help and also make visiting more pleasurable," said Mischca Scales, who has lived in Austin for more than two decades.

The airport's "2040 Master Plan" aims to deal with all concerns inside and outside the terminal.

John-Paul Clarke, a professor of aerospace engineering at University of Texas and the Ernest Cockrell Jr. memorial chair in engineering, said these improvements are vital for an airport's success.

"The way I think about airports and any complex system in general is what we refer to as well-matched from one phase to the other," said professor Clarke.

He notes airports must factor in not only terminals, runways and gates but also infrastructure and how they all connect with one another to create a flow.

Haynes said, for them, this is top of mind, citing some of the on-site infrastructure projects they plan to improve.

"A good example of our project is a brand-new fuel storage facility, so that will more than double the supply of fuel," said Haynes.

The Austin airport is building two new fuel tanks to deal with fuel shortages. Most airports on a daily basis have five to seven days of fuel supply on hand, but that's not the case at AUS.

"Sometimes that number can even dip down to a half-day supply," said Haynes.

Plans for more new fuel tanks are on hold while the city conducts more environmental studies. Neighbors raised concerns about how new tanks could affect their homes.

"You think about deicing fluid. You think about, you know, fuel spills – all of those things, or just fuel handling at airports. All of those things are environmental issues," said Professor Clarke.

To help deal with flight demand, there are also plans for a new terminal.

"A brand-new midfield concourse … that will be constructed right in the middle of the airfield, hence midfield concourse, and that will have a minimum of 10 gates. So it's not in design yet," said Haynes.

But legal action could hinder the plans for that new midfield concourse. A private company owns the South Terminal, which the City says would need to be torn down to make room for the new concourse.

The South Terminal has filed lawsuits to stop that. Those are still pending.

Crews could start working on smaller projects however, like expanding the baggage claim, in the near future.

Boomtown is KVUE's series covering the explosive growth in Central Texas. For more Boomtown stories, head to KVUE.com/Boomtown

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