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A new day for parking at airport

The first phase of a six-level garage opens at TIA - and the rates are cheap.

Published November 8, 2005

TAMPA - Tampa International Airport is consistently ranked among the most user-friendly in the world. But if customers have one universal complaint, it's the cost of parking.

Double-digit passenger growth and the preference of some to park under cover put heavy pressure on the close-in garages. The long-term garage is often full even on non-peak travel days, and a remote economy lot that opened five years ago is used heavily.

Starting this morning, drivers can have the best of both worlds.

The first phase of the new six-level economy garage was scheduled to open at 3 a.m. It offers the cheapest parking on the airport property, especially because prices in the other parking facilities went up at the same instant.

The new garage costs $7 a day with the second day free. So the weekly totally cannot exceed $42.

"Due to increased demand for parking in the parking garages, we can now offer a new option for parking that's affordable and maintains the highest level of customer service," said the airport's executive director, Louis Miller.

It will be a relief for Thomas Cavanaugh, 47, of Lakeland, who says he flies several times a month on business and tries to put his sport utility vehicle under cover, especially in the summer.

"It's for me and the truck," Cavanaugh said as he parked in the long-term garage last week. "I don't want to be running around in the rain or have my truck baking for a week in the sun. Cheaper parking under a roof is a good thing."

The first phase of the new garage will offer 3,300 additional spaces immediately. The second phase, scheduled to be completed in the summer, will add 2,300 more. With the overflow lot just south of the post office offering 1,000 spaces, TIA's parking capacity stands at 15,200. In the summer it will jump to about 17,500.

The garage is nearly three years late.

Ten months after the economy lot opened in September 2000, Miller told his board that construction on the decks would have to begin in 2002. Two months after he made that statement, terrorists struck New York and Washington, D.C. The massive decline in air travel that followed forced TIA to put many capital projects, including the garage, on hold.

Construction began in January.

The new garage offers the same cash-or-credit card payment methods offered at the close-in garages now. But it also will offer in-and-out credit card service with Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Diners Club.

"You can insert your credit card in a slot when you drive in and then again when you drive out, and the proper charge will be made automatically," said Brenda Geoghagan, airport spokeswoman. "The trick is not to forget when you leave which credit card you used when you went in."

Elevators will take passengers to a climate-controlled lobby where shuttles will pick them up every three to seven minutes.

The walking distance in the new garage will be considerably shorter than most walks from the long-term garage. According to airport officials, it is 585 feet from the middle of the long-term garage to the terminal but only 285 feet from the farthest space in the new garage to the elevator.

They estimate the travel time from long-term to terminal is 5-6 minutes, whether the passenger is walking or using the monorail.

Travel time from the car to terminal in the new garage will be about 13 minutes.

[Last modified November 8, 2005, 05:23:51]

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