Baltimore-Washington International Airport today was opening a $30 million parking garage that offers travelers a more convenient place to leave their cars.
Convenience, of course, has its price.
Those who park in the four-level, 2,800-space garage will pay more than people who park in daily and satellite lots at BWI.
A space in the garage, which sits smack-dab in front of the terminal, costs $1 per half-hour, up to a maximum of $13 a day.
A traveler will pay from $5 to $8 less a day if he parks in the daily and satellite lots, respectively.
The garage, however, offers amenities such as pedestrian bridges and a tunnel directly into the terminal. "For many people, that convenience is important," said BWI spokeswoman Linda Greene.
Today brings a price change at the 2,377-space daily lot, which is to the right of the garage as one takes Interstate 195 into the airport. A space there costs $3 for the first two hours and $8 a day, compared with the earlier cost of $3 for the first hour and $7 a day, Greene said.
Rates for some of the surface lots did not increase during the two years it took to build the garage, she explained, "but the cost of operating those lots continues to rise."
The best buy continues to be the 5,360-space satellite parking lot, between Camp Meade Road and Aviation Boulevard two miles from the terminal. Parking rates remain $5 a day, and a 24-hour shuttle bus takes travelers to the terminal.
The most expensive alternative is valet parking, which rises today to $15 for the first day and $9 for each successive day. The previous rates were $14 for the first day and $8 per day thereafter, Greene said.
Valet parkers are driven to the terminal after leaving their cars with an attendant. On their return, they are taken by shuttle bus from the terminal to the 958-space valet lot.
The garage replaces a surface lot that used to charge $1 per half-hour, up to a maximum of $26 a day.
Two levels are underground. Seven-hundred spaces on the third level are reserved for travelers picking up and returning rental cars.
Greene said the spaces will be used by seven rental car companies under contract with the Maryland Aviation Administration.
Parking brought in about one-fourth of the airport's revenues during the budget year that ended June 30, Greene said. Officials expect the garage to generate about $4 million a year in revenue.
The number of passengers using BWI had been increasing until the nationwide recession, when it fell to 10.2 million in 1990 from the nearly 10.4 million of 1989.
With a garage providing additional parking spaces, some people who live near the airport had hoped that BWI would tear up part of its surface lots and plant trees, said Dennis Stevens, president of the Airport Coordinating Team, a BWI watchdog group. Trees would help filter out noise from planes, he said.