Growing pains: Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport officials eye more space for parking

Vehicles fill the front of Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport, which is gaining new service to Washington Dulles but losing nonstops to Newark, N.J.

Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport is jetting ahead to create more parking with a planned expansion of its remote lot and a potential parking deck near the terminal.

With passenger boardings likely to hit another record this year, airport officials on Monday agreed to move forward with engineering services for up to 330 more parking spaces adjacent to a lot served by shuttle service to the terminal.

The project could cost about $1 million, to be paid for out of reserves, officials said at a meeting of the Airport Authority.

Airport Chief Executive Officer Terry Hart said that work on a separate 1,300-space parking garage near the terminal could start next year.

Hart said a future parking structure is "the No. 1 project." The airport panel is expected to review a new long-range plan for Lovell Field in November.

Dan Jacobson, the Authority's chairman, said passenger boardings were up nearly 9 percent in September over the same month a year ago to 43,699, which is a record at Lovell Field for the month.

"Parking presents extreme logistical issues," he said, adding that the airport needs "to maximize the size" of the new remote parking area.

For the year, boardings are nearly 4 percent higher to 367,196 passengers, according to the airport. The airport has experienced four consecutive years of record boardings, and officials believe it may top the 500,000 enplanements for the first time ever.

Hart said there's a need now for more parking and and in the future. Construction of the deck initially will create the loss of 225 spaces, he said.

"We'll need that [remote lot] space anyway," Hart said

Hart said plans are to start work on the new remote lot in January and open it before March.

He added that there will be a review of parking rates, saying there may have to be an increase. He said the short-term lot often fills up at $16 a day.

Authority member Paul Conn said that when demand is high, that's the time to think about raising prices.

Hart said that it's evident that more parking is needed around the terminal.

"We've maxed out the area," he said.

The airport's CEO said the increase in passenger traffic of late came after Delta Air Lines started making more flights with bigger, mainline jets which hold more seating.

Contact Mike Pare at or 757-6318. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.