BWI to unveil new satellite parking

TRANSPORTATION & TRADE

April 01, 1994|By Suzanne Wooton | Suzanne Wooton,Sun Staff Writer

The construction cost of the parking garage a Baltimore-Washington International Airport was incorrectly stated in yesterday's Business section. The correct figure is $30 million.

The Sun regrets the errors.

You can't argue with success -- unless it means not finding a parking space.

With the boom in passenger traffic at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, passengers have discovered one or more of the airport's four parking areas full -- even on weekdays.

For an airport that has staked its reputation on quick access, the situation could become problematic.

"People have been pretty understanding, but they're so used to driving to BWI and parking where they want to. They're now shocked," said Jay Hierholzer, associate administrator for marketing at BWI.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

"It's going to take some getting used to," he said.

With the busy Easter weekend approaching, BWI is opening today a 900-space satellite lot off Route 170, across from the existing, 5,300-space satellite facility. That brings the number of long- and short-term spaces to 11,800.

The outbreak of fare wars -- precipitated by Southwest Airlines' arrival last summer -- has made BWI the fastest-growing metropolitan airport in the country.

After suffering several years of decline in passengers, BWI has seen traffic grow at the rate of 25 to 30 percent a month since October, as passengers travel from Washington suburbs and as far north as Philadelphia to take advantage of fares.

Since January, USAir has added two dozen jet flights and Continental Airlines eight. Southwest plans to nearly triple its daily schedule of eight flights by summer. Other airlines are adding flights as well.

Keeping ahead of the parking demand is now the challenge, says Richard Keen, director of transportation and terminal services, who's responsible for parking facilities. The airport, he said, is moving quickly to provide 1,100 more spaces by Thanksgiving, traditionally the busiest travel holiday.

On some days last Christmas season, every parking space was taken, Mr. Keen said. "We had to park some people on employee lots, and we wound up giving some free parking at the [nearby] Sheraton Hotel."

Starting today, parking is available at five locations: the daily lot (2,300 spaces), to the right approaching the terminal; the four-story parking garage (2,100), opened two years ago; an express parking service adjacent to the garage, (1,200); and the two satellite lots off Route 170.

The $5-a-day satellite parking lot has been filling up at least one weekend day recently. Airport officials post electronic signs directing passengers to the daily lot, which is the next-cheapest place to park, at $8 a day.

"Some people get confused and go in the garage, and they're shocked because it's $13 a day," Mr. Keen said.

While becoming increasingly crowded, BWI still offers more parking than the congested National Airport in Arlington, Va., Mr. Keen said.

Just a few years ago, with BWI lagging behind both Washington Dulles International Airport and National in passengers, airport officials had a tough time getting legislative approval to sell revenue bonds to build a $130 million parking garage.

Lawmakers balked at building the garage even though BWI officials argued that the 15-year revenue bonds would be paid in seven years. With the recent surge in passengers, that promise now seems all but certain.

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