Chattanooga Airport looks to add more parking, gates in plan for the future

$1.1 million master plan launched as airport boardings soar

Vehicles fill the front of the Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport.
photo Airport manager Terry Hart talks to those gathered in September to celebrate the start of direct service from Chattanooga to the New York area on United Airlines.

Airport boardings

Passenger traffic continued to climb at Chattanooga Airport in May. Below are boardings for the month and year with percent gain over the prior periods:› Month: 43,034, up 17.7 percent› Year to date: 189,401, up 19.3 percentSource: Chattanooga Airport

With passenger boardings soaring, Chattanooga Airport officials on Monday approved spending $1.1 million for a new master plan that will look at more parking for fliers and gates for aircraft.

The Airport Authority agreed to hire the aviation consulting firm Inter-Vistas to conduct the study that will craft a plan for the next 10 years.

Boardings are up nearly 20 percent through May over last year and officials said the airport is probably on its way to another annual record for passenger traffic.

Terry Hart, the airport's chief executive, said Lovell Field has already surpassed a lot of the goals in the old master plan and a new plan is needed.

"We're already where we were predicted to be in 2027," he told the board.

Federal Aviation Administration funds will pay 90 percent of the master plan cost with the airport picking up the remainder.

Brian Mohr of InterVistas said the new plan should be ready in about a year, though airport officials can start tapping into its findings within about six months.

In addition to parking and gates, the study will examine what the passenger terminal may look like in the future as well as services such as concessions, he said.

Also, Mohr said, the plan will look at how commuter rail may fit into the airport's long-range plan if a high-speed train between Atlanta and Chattanooga comes to fruition in the future.

When it comes to parking, Hart said the airport has added more spaces in recent years and about maxed out its use of surface lots.

That will probably mean adding a parking garage, he said. But the plan will look at how services such as Uber and others may affect parking, Hart said.

The airport now has five gates which can handle about nine planes.

"At peak times, all the spots are taken," Hart said. "We'll look at growing gate capacity."

Airport Authority Chairman Dan Jacobson said officials plan to seek public input into the new master plan.

"We'll listen to anyone who wants to be heard," he said.

Authority Vice Chairman Jim Hall said the gains in passenger traffic in recent years have occurred despite Lovell Field's proximity to Atlanta, which boasts the busiest airport in the nation. Also, he said, there are airports in Knoxville, Nashville and Huntsville, Ala., that attract fliers from the Chattanooga area.

Mohr said the Chattanooga Airport is "doing fantastic" especially being so close to Atlanta.

Hart said the airport could see boardings come in at between 460,000 to 482,000 passengers by year's end.

"We feel confident of another record for [boardings]," he said.

Hart added that airport officials in recent meetings with airline route planners expressed interest in new nonstop service between Chattanooga and Houston and the Scenic City and Washington Dulles Airport.

Contact Mike Pare at [email protected] or 423-757-6318.