Our Voice: Increased parking fee still will be a deal at the airport

May 21, 2014 

The price of parking is going up at the airport.

In many markets that would be a cause for griping. But in Pasco the convenience of the long-term parking lot still makes the new $10-a-day rate seem like a bargain.

If you're flying out at 5 a.m. or getting back close to midnight, parking your car just a short walk from the terminal can ease the stress.

In fact, you would be hard-pressed to find an airport where parking is so easy. The lot is big, access is simple, settling up is easy. At worst, you'll have two or three cars ahead of you when it's time to leave.

Rates will increase by $1 for both long- and short-term parking at the Tri-Cities Airport, but not until Jan. 1, 2017. That's when the Port of Pasco expects to have completed a $44 million overhaul of the airport. Long-term parking will go to $10 and short-term parking will cost $13 per day. Hourly rates will not change.

The additional revenue will create a reserve account for the project. Construction on the airport is expected to begin later this summer, and will double the size of the terminal.

While the airport will be a mess during construction, and surely an inconvenience, travelers will appreciate the improvements once the project is complete.

The old staircase and restrooms at the entrance to the airport will be relocated to open up what is now a very congested area for security screening, especially when multiple flights are scheduled for departure at about the same time.

The ticketing, baggage and security areas will be expanded. A large wall of glass windows will be a feature of the new concourse for a view of the airfield, similar to what can be seen in other newly renovated airports.

Port officials expect to use a 20-year bond to pay for the project, which will cost about $200,000 more per year in debt service than a 30-year bond. The parking increase is expected to generate that revenue in a single year. The 20-year bond also will save the port significantly in interest over a longer-term bond.

The Federal Aviation Administration also has given the port permission to use 20 years of collections of passenger facility charges on airline tickets toward the bond debt. Commissioners still will need to approve the sale of the bonds, and are likely to do that in July.

First, they will look at bids from subcontactors due to Bouten Construction Co. next month to see if there are any cost savings that would allow for some features already deleted from the plans to be brought back.

In the short-term, travelers are likely to be inconvenienced by construction and temporary service areas and reconfigurations. In the long-term, we should have an airport that better serves our needs.

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