Memphis International Airport garage project shifts into gear

April 17, 2009

By Wayne Risher

Memphis International Airport moved ahead Thursday with development of a seven-story parking garage, including rental car facilities and a moving sidewalk.

The HYPERLINK "http://www.mscaa.com/" Airport Authority board approved $1.3 million for design and engineering work by Walker Parking Consultants. It was in a batch of nearly $6.5 million in consulting contracts related to about $300 million in airport facility upgrades.
The total included up to $3.98 million for Allen & Hoshall Inc. to manage reconstruction of the east-west runway and other improvements.

Airport Authority president and CEO Larry Cox said the proposed parking garage/rental car facility would combine two badly needed projects that weren't economically feasible by themselves.

The structure would be built on what are now surface lots for long-term, economy parking between the existing three-level garage and the construction site of a new air traffic control tower. A very preliminary cost estimate is $150 million, Cox said.

Authority board chairman Arnold Perl called the combined project a cost-effective solution that helps the airport remain among the most affordable passenger airline hubs in the country.

In addition to being a Delta Air Lines hub, the airport is the world's largest air cargo handler, because of the FedEx superhub.

Officials hope to have at least part of the garage project ready for bids in August so they can meet deadlines to qualify for about $12 million in federal funds for the moving sidewalk and related improvements.

The parking addition, on the drawing board for much of this decade, would make it possible for the airport to offer a full complement of parking and rental car services on site. It would eliminate the need for shuttle buses to serve a rental car facility outside the airport grounds, while allowing the airport to offer more premium services such as valet parking.

The current rental car facility is on Democrat, about a mile from the terminal. Before the decision to combine the projects, officials were considering a site near Winchester and Airways, closer to the terminal, but still requiring shuttle buses.

The airport has about 2,750 garage spaces and 976 in surface lots where the new structure is planned. The new garage would have about 3,100 public spaces and 1,500 spots for rental cars, said vice president of operations John Greaud.

Commissioner John Stokes said he wants project planners to be careful not to harm the aesthetics of the airport terminal area as rental cars are incorporated in the garage.

Commissioner Jim Ethridge, who serves on a design committee, said, "This is going to change the front door of our airport. We want to have a very unique, positive and pleasing front door. It is moving forward in a very positive way."

The board also approved an $850,000 contract with Professional Services Industries Inc. for quality assurance testing and inspection of soils, asphalt, concrete and other aspects of improvements such as the runway reconstruction.

-- Wayne Risher: 529-2874

Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority
Headquarters: 2491 Winchester
Officers: Arnold Perl, board chairman; Larry Cox, president and CEO
Business: Owns, maintains and operates Memphis International Airport
Phone: 922-8000
Web site: mscaa.com