The Chattanooga Airport is busier than ever, and steps are being taken to add a host of new parking space, officials said Monday.
The Airport showed strong growth in 2018. Terry Hart, president of Chattanooga Airport gave the year-end report at the December board of directors meeting Monday afternoon. Some records were set for airport use. In October, traditionally the busiest month for the airport, enplanements reached 50,000 for the first time ever, he said.
This is a 6.5 percent increase over 2017. Deplanements followed the same pattern. Landing weights were up 14 percent this year, which is eight percent over last year, resulting from the use of larger and heavier planes. November numbers were also up with 45,000 enplanements which showed a two percent increase from the year before, and landing weights up six percent from 2017. It is expected that, when December enplanements are added, total enplanements will be over 500,000 in 2018. “These are great numbers for us as we move forward,” said Mr. Hart.
The increased use of the airport and increased capacity by American Airlines, Delta and United has impacted the airport parking lots. During the busiest times, every parking space has been used and airport staff has actively worked to find available spaces and personally directed customers to them. The airport shuttle was used to take these passengers to the terminal. Mr. Hart said that all customers have been accommodated. These peak events emphasized the need for additional parking. Currently, fencing is being moved and a lot is being reconfigured which will add 250 more spaces around the terminal.
The master plan calls for a parking deck. Mr. Hart said that construction of the deck, which is expected to begin in 2019, should take about a year to complete. While it is under construction, some existing parking will need to be closed. Planning ahead for the parking areas that will be removed from service during than time, another surface lot will be built prior to starting construction of the parking deck.
This lot will provide 520 parking spaces, will be paved, striped and lighted, and will be served by the shuttle service. The bid to build it was awarded to Thomas Brothers Construction after evaluating the criteria of price, scheduling and experience. This company is scheduled to complete the work by April 15. The cost is $2,640,000. So by spring 2019, the Chattanooga Airport will have about 770 more spaces than it presently has. The cost of each space in this new lot will be about $4,600, but each space will also generate revenue. The board also approved the purchase and installation of equipment for this new lot from Amano McGann in the amount of $33,492.
Parking rates have been kept low and have not changed in the last six and a half years, said Mr. Hart. After talking to Republic Parking and comparing rates of other regional airports, it has been decided that a parking rate increase is needed and the board approved the changes. Beginning on January 1, short term rates that are now $16 daily will increase to $20. Long term rates will go from where they are now at $9 per day to $12, and economy parking at the existing overflow lots will stay at $9 per day. The analysis showed that these changes would give the airport $1.6 million in additional revenue a year.
The airport contracts with Republic Parking to manage parking and to provide the shuttle service. The cost of their services was based on providing one new shuttle bus and one used bus. Problems with the used vehicle have resulted in Mr. Hart requesting that it be replaced with a new bus. Based on the increased use of the airport this year, he has also asked for a third bus.
The current agreement with Republic started in May 2017 and will end in December 2019. The company is requesting that the contract be extended for two additional years which would pay for the new vehicles. The board voted to accept the contract extension subject to approval after each member evaluates an analysis of the need for shuttle service before the parking deck is complete in 2021. In 2018 Republic was paid $177,000 for the services it provides, based on using one shuttle bus at a time. The price will increase if a second bus is put in service at the same time. In the new agreement, the price would increase three percent each year.
Mr. Hart reported on other accomplishments at the facility during 2018. Work on Phase 3 of the solar farm is continuing. It is expected to be completed at the end of January or first of February. The solar farm has received worldwide recognition, he said.
The Tennessee Air National Guard site has been demolished and site preparation is now in progress.
The north ramp replacement project will be completed ahead of schedule. New pavement has been installed. Planting sod is dependent upon the weather.
The north side project of replacing fencing should be complete in February. Relocating equipment and upgrading it, moving items out of the safety area is complete.
The use of body cameras for the airport police is being studied. Where to buy the equipment may be made in the next couple of months.
Last week the airport staff and all the tenants of the facility had a Christmas luncheon where all brought gifts for the Shepherd community. The gifts will be distributed at the community center.
The Chattanooga Airport was given an unmodified opinion, a clean report in its annual audit report done by CPA firm Elliott Davis. The board was told that the balance sheet is very strong.