"The first difference that it will make to passengers is in about a year from now, next March, we'll have the surface parking open, so they'll be parking somewhere different than they're used to parking," Wedge said.
A shuttle will be offered from the street-level parking to the terminal because it's a bit farther away than current parking, Wedge said.
The airport will save money up front by not building the parking structure first, and that money can be shifted to the terminal project.
Construction costs have been rising since the expansion plans were laid out in 2004, but it's not clear how much they'll boost the cost of the work. Wedge said the one project that's been bid, improved overnight parking for aircraft, came in about $7 million higher than the $23-million estimate.
The expansion is allowed in the settlement agreement that caps flights and passengers at John Wayne Airport. The added facilities will help ease overcrowding at an airport that was designed for 8.4 million annual passengers and that served 9.6 million people last year.
The agreement caps passengers at 10.3 million a year through 2010, when the cap rises to 10.8 million annual passengers.
Wedge said it shouldn't be a problem that the new passenger gates will open before more parking is added.
"We're keeping in mind that just because the new terminal is going to be open doesn't mean we're adding another million passengers," she said.