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SFO Control Tower: Ground Broken On San Francisco Airport Project (PHOTOS)

Sfo Control Tower

By FENIT NIRAPPIL   07/09/12 09:14 PM ET  AP

SAN FRANCISCO -- U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood was in Northern California on Monday to break ground on a new air traffic control tower at San Francisco International Airport, a structure that is being praised as much for its sleek design as its intended purpose of reducing flight delays.

While most airports have control towers that are located away from passenger terminals, SFO is surrounded on three sides by the waters of San Francisco Bay, putting space at a premium. Instead, the new 221-foot-tall tower will fill a tight gap between two terminals and resemble a torch instead of the traditional lollipop-shape of other air traffic control towers.

The base will replace a crosswalk and feature coffee shops, art displays and other public amenities.

"It's a beautiful, beautiful design, and I think we'll all be proud of it," San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said at the ground-breaking ceremony Monday.

The federal government authorized the replacement tower because the existing one, commissioned in 1984, no longer meets California seismic safety standards for withstanding earthquakes, airport spokesman Michael McCarron said. With an anticipated completion date of 2015, the project is expected to cost $102 million, with the Federal Aviation Administration paying almost $70 million and the airport the rest.

The new tower will be equipped with the latest communications and navigation technology and have an unobstructed view of the runways that makes controlling traffic easier, acting FAA administrator Michael Huerta said. If the project finishes successfully, travelers will "have a much higher likelihood of getting to (their) destination on time," Huerta said.

The control tower is the latest in a series of developing public transportation infrastructure projects in the Bay Area, including the construction of a subway stop at Union Square and the approval of funds for a California high speed rail system that would connect San Francisco and Los Angeles.

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  • Virgin Atlantic JFK Clubhouse, John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York

    The feeling that half of Manhattan has joined you at your gate at JFK is over. This March, Virgin Atlantic premiered its new Clubhouse with an Austin Powers–meets–uptown mod cocktail lounge at its heart, complete with a red leather sofa and purple lighting. But it’s the Clubhouse Spa, featuring Dr. Hauschka products and treatments, that really makes the JFK Clubhouse a standout layover option. In the end, just like the $17 million flagship at Heathrow airport, this lounge offers everything you need (massages, facials, foot treatments), everything you didn’t know you needed (a Bumble and Bumble salon) and several things that you don’t really need at all but are certainly nice to have (anyone for a game of pool?). <em>Beyond TSA checkpoint in A Concourse, above boarding gates A4 and A5; <a href="http://virgin-atlantic.com" target="_hplink">virgin-atlantic.com</a></em>.

  • British Airways Concorde Room, Heathrow Airport

    The decidedly unfashionable herringbone print, velvets and crystal chandeliers of the Concorde Room at Heathrow recall a well-to-do British gentleman’s study in all its relaxed, un-modern glory. Quite simply, this is a retreat—albeit one with full waiter service, complimentary wines and Champagne and private, hotel-style cabanas with day beds and en-suite bathrooms. If retreating isn’t your habit, book a theater ticket with the concierge and head to the terrace for a drink from the fabulous Concorde Bar and views of the runway. <em>Terminal 5; <a href="http://britishairways.com" target="_hplink">britishairways.com</a></em>.

  • Finnair Lounge, Helsinki Airport

    From felt walls that swallow outside noise to Marimekko tableware to the wireless, mobile phone–charging system PowerKiss (wireless!), the simplicity and thoughtfulness of the Finnair Lounge makes it exceptional. A buffet is always on, and in addition to the views, the elegant Finnish and Nordic furniture designs provide their own easy pleasure. For those on the way to Asia, the midnight buffet is particularly elaborate. Travelers in need of a spa will need to have patience—the Finnair Spa (complete with traditional Finnish saunas) will reopen this winter, but in the meantime there are showers at the lounge. <em>Terminal T2 between Gates 36 and 37; <a href="http://finnair.com" target="_hplink">finnair.com</a></em>.

  • The Pier, Hong Kong International Airport

    The seasoned traveler will be forgiven for any long-standing preconceptions about eating (or, sadly, not eating) in airports. Thankfully, not far from Gate 62 at Hong Kong International, those expectations will be overturned. At The Pier—Cathay Pacific’s glass-enclosed first- and business-class break area—you’ll find freshly made Japanese noodles at the Noodle Bar and proper fine dining and modern decor at the first-class Haven restaurant. (There are also two more fully stocked café/bars.) In addition to the business centers, the WiFi, the leather armchairs and the pebbled showers, a glass of Champagne also goes a long way to ease travel stress. <em>Gates 62–66, Northwest Concourse; <a href="http://cathaypacific.com" target="_hplink">cathaypacific.com</a></em>.

  • Qantas First Lounge, Sydney Airport

    Modernity, with polished surfaces, clear glass and stainless steel, is the norm of airport luxury today, give or take a Dutch modern knock-off table or two and a leather armchair. Which is why we’re thrilled with the 98-foot, 8,400-plant vertical garden that greets passengers at the Qantas First Lounge at Sydney Airport. It leaves the air in the atrium feeling cleaner and lighter. Better yet, part of the garden is incorporated into each of the Payot Paris day spa treatment rooms, so you can forget, for the moment, that you’re in transit. The upper floor of the lounge, designed by Marc Newson and replete with recliners and sofas (in addition to those leather armchairs), also includes an open kitchen restaurant serving food by Australian chef Neil Perry. <em>International Terminal; <a href="http://qantas.com.au" target="_hplink">qantas.com.au</a></em>.

  • Singapore Airlines SilverKris Lounges, Singapore Changi International Airport

    At Singapore Changi International, as throngs of travelers roll handcarts piled high with suitcases to overflowing check-in lines, Passenger Relations Officers greet first-class passengers of Singapore Airlines curbside, taking their bags, guiding them to an armchair in the first-class check-in lounge and checking them in personally. Next it’s off to the first-class SilverKris Lounges, where, depending on their mood, guests can choose from meeting rooms, café/bars or 13 Italian-leather slumberettes. Don’t worry—the staff will wake you before your flight. Terminal 2 on Level 3 (North Wing); <em>Terminal 3 on Level 3; <a href="http://singaporeair.com" target="_hplink">singaporeair.com</a></em>.

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Filed by Carly Schwartz  |