This story was updated Monday, Aug. 19, 2019, at 6:35 p.m. with more information.
On course for a sixth straight year of record boardings, Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport officials are seeking proposals for the design and building of a 1,300-space parking garage.
"This will be a fast track design-build," said Airport Authority Chairman Dan Jacobson on Monday at a meeting of the panel. "It will happen very quickly."
As early as Tuesday, officials were expected to issue a request for proposals for the project, which is slated to cost about $25 million and be the airport's first-ever garage, said Terry Hart, the airport's chief executive.
Hart said he hoped to get the Airport Authority's OK to move ahead in December with site work to begin next spring. He said the garage would be financed by rental car revenues and airport money.
The four-level garage would go on what is now some of the short-term parking lot across from the existing rental car location, Hart said. Upon completion in spring 2021, the rental car operations would move to the ground floor of the garage, he said.
Jacobson said he has heard a lot feedback about the possibility of a parking garage to ease the crunch at the airport and prep for its future.
"We hope to minimize the impact to the flying community," he said about the construction.
Earlier this year, the airport constructed a 520-space economy parking lot off Airport Road with shuttle service to the terminal as Lovell Field deals with record passenger boardings. To help pay for the parking expansion and other improvements, the airport raised parking fees for the first time in six years.
On Monday, the airport reported that passenger boardings are up 12.52 percent in the first seven months of the year over 2018. Through July, boardings are 313,983, airport figures show.
Hart said he expected boardings to come in at about 550,000 passengers for all of 2019. That's up from 504,298 passengers in 2018, which was the first time in Lovell Field history that boardings surpassed the half-million mark.
"All the carriers showed positive growth" in July over the same month a year ago, Hart said.
Officials have credited a strong business climate in the Chattanooga area along with more flights and larger aircraft at the airport for the higher passenger traffic.
Also, while the parking garage is constructed next year, airport officials are to start the design of an expansion of the terminal on which construction could begin in 2021, the airport's CEO said.
That project, which could reach $28 million, would expand the concourse and potentially include adding a third security checkpoint lane for Transportation Security Administration PreCheck service, officials said. PreCheck gives expedited passage through the TSA checkpoint.
Hart said that since about 70 percent of the Chattanooga Airport's traffic is business travel, a dedicated lane for PreCheck authorization appears to make sense.
"I agree with your judgment," said Airport Authority member Dr. Paul Conn.
While expanding the checkpoint could take away from some existing concession space before entering the lanes, that could be added back nearer to the gates, Hart said.
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