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LVIA fees increasing by a buck a day for long-term and economy parking

By Randy Kraft, WFMZ.com Reporter, RKraft@wfmz.com
Published On: Aug 28 2012 08:43:34 PM CDT
Updated On: Aug 29 2012 11:51:16 AM CDT
LNAA
ALLENTOWN, Pa. -

Long-term and economy lot parking at Lehigh Valley International Airport is increasing by one dollar a day.

The increase was approved during Tuesday afternoon’s meeting of the Lehigh-Northampton Transportation Authority.

Also during the meeting, the airport board took a step toward adding new taxilanes for planes at its Queen City Airport in south Allentown.  Taxilanes are paved areas linking runways and taxiways to hangers and outdoor parking spots for aircraft.

Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski, who serves on the board, opposed the taxilane project, saying: “We’re building runways we don’t need, to hangers we don’t have money to build. For us to be spending our very limited dollars is not a good use of our money and our resources.”

Parking fees at LVIA are increasing from $9 to $10 a day in the airport’s economy lot and from $14 to $15 in its long-term lot, said Darren Betters, LVIA’s director of commercial services.

Even with the increase, the airport’s parking rates are lower than its main competing airports in Philadelphia and Newark, Betters told the board.

Board members Cindy Feinberg and Larry Sheridan voted against raising the public parking lot fees.

“I realize we’re looking for revenue (but) I don’t favor an increase in parking lot fees at this time,” said Sheridan just before the vote. “We have a steady trend of declining traffic and we turn around and raise the parking. There’s something there I don’t like. It’s basic economics.”

The one dollar increase is expected to generate an additional $385,000 a year in revenue for LVIA, said Betters. Later he said it is the first rate increase for those lots in more than three years.

Betters said existing parking discounts remain: the seventh day is free in the economy lot and the sixth and seventh days are free in the long-term lot. He said there are no changes in fees for short-term parking at LVIA.

The airport board voted 8-3 to approve a $593,486 bid from A. Scott Enterprises, Inc., to construct “T-hanger taxilanes” at Queen City Airport. The bid is contingent on receiving a Federal Aviation Administration grant to help pay for most of the project.

Pawlowski also opposed approval of the taxilane project because the authority has not yet received the federal grant.

Board member Anthony Boyle explained the contractor is the low bidder on the project, but no contract will be awarded “unless we get the grant money. If the grant money doesn’t come, this project will fall through. You cannot award a contract until we have the money.”

But Pawlowski said if the authority gets the federal grant, it is obligated to do the project.

Authority vice chairman Robert Buesing, who participated in the meeting by phone, joined Pawlowski and Sheridan in voting no on taxilanes for Queen City.

Buesing said he’s concerned the authority may end up with “a taxiway to nowhere” if the bottom falls out of the private aviation industry. He warned: “By the time we get this grant, things may change for the worse.”

Buesing said he’s been hearing for months and years from Queen City supporters that more people want to keep their planes at that airport, but there is no marketing plan in place showing that “27 people are looking to put planes here, that we need new hangers.” He also said FAA money can’t be used for hangers and no one else “has ponied up to the table yet with money.”

After the meeting, Charles Everett, LVIA’s executive director, said Queen City Airport is at capacity. But he said the authority has no list showing a certain number of people are interested in keeping their planes at that airport.

Betters said the federal grant will pay 90 percent of the Queen City taxilane project, with the other 10 percent split between state and local funding. He said the airport is seeking state grants to build hangers and private developers also are being sought to build and lease hangers.

After a lengthy closed-door executive session, the airport authority voted in public to have LVIA’s staff begin negotiations to reach an agreement with the Rockefeller Group that ultimately should result in the sale of surplus airport property.

After the meeting, Everett said the authority owns a total of nearly 700 acres, not all in one place. He said Rockefeller would market and sell each property “on our behalf” but added that each project would come back to the authority for approval before any property is sold or developed.