Completion of Airport Garage Project Nears

By Thomas Adams
November 27, 2009
Rochester Business Journal
Work is virtually complete on a $15 million expansion of the parking garage at the Greater Rochester International Airport, creating 780 additional covered spaces for travelers and their vehicles.

The first floor of the three-story addition has been available for two weeks, with the second and third floors open as of last Thursday, airport director David Damelio said. The project was paid for with airport parking revenue, he said. The addition was built on the west side of the existing 2,250-space, three-story parking garage next to the airport terminal.

"We do surveys of both the passengers and the airlines," Damelio said. "The highest demand, not just during the winter but 12 months a year, is covered parking in our ramp garage." Travelers prefer the garage because of its proximity to the terminal, because they prefer covered parking regardless of whether there's sun, rain or snow, and because they feel safer in a well-lighted garage, Damelio said.

"We were at over 90 percent capacity of our garage on a daily basis," he said. "With the amount of business travel we have, we looked at a bunch of different options. Are we going to add another level? Where are we going to do it? But there truly is a need for it.

"Business travelers tend to gravitate toward the garage, as do people being rushed and those who are traveling with families," he added. "It certainly is safe; it's easy. Of all our parking lots, it's the first one to fill up and it's always filled up for the longest period of time."

The cost for covered parking is $12 a day. Parking in surface lots nearest to the airport is $6 a day. Parking in adjoining surface lots on the north side of Brooks Avenue, with shuttle service to and from the airport, is $4.50 daily.

"It's premium parking," Damelio said of the garage, "which means we charge the most for it. When we looked at what the addition was going to cost and the revenue we were going to generate, it made sense to us to proceed with this."

The DiMarco Group LLC in Brighton was the construction manager. "The airport is a busy site, so we tried to take into consideration the airport customers and tried to minimize the inconveniences," said Paul Colucci, a vice president with DiMarco Constructors LLC. "We wanted to try to maintain the maximum amount of parking spaces for the airport during the entire project." Crane-Hogan Structural Systems Inc. of Spencerport was the general contractor. Passero Associates P.C. of Rochester was the engineer.

"As silly as this may sound to some people, it's a really good-looking parking garage," Damelio said. "It looks nice. They did a good job matching the old structure.

"It was done on time and on budget, which is a positive thing. It employed a bunch of people for a year during some tough economic times. That's one of the ways the airport acts as an economic engine. We're here to drive economic development."

The design teams considered a spiral ramp as part of the new garage but decided on a more cost-effective option of access ramps connecting the second and third floors of the existing and new garages, Colucci said.

Ground was broken in January. The first floor was made available two weeks ago, Damelio said.

"We were waiting to finish some stuff on the third floor, but we opened it and the ground level had filled up in half a morning," he said.

The rest of the new garage opened last week. "There are going to be some cosmetic touch-ups, probably through the end of January," Damelio said. "We're waiting for some different-colored railing to come in, but the garage itself is open and operational."

Damelio expects the addition to be used extensively, with the big test coming next month during the Christmas holidays. "We talk about increased travel during the Thanksgiving break, but this isn't the type of holiday where a lot of people are coming to the airport and parking for three or four days, as our business travelers do, or parking for a week, as our spring break travelers do," he said.

"People traveling over Thanksgiving are being dropped off and picked up at the airport. Our parking operation as a whole is not even close to being filled during Thanksgiving break. We'll judge it more during December. Certainly between Christmas and New Year's is more of an active travel period."

Airport travel has waned in recent months, in Rochester and the rest of the country, because of the recession. Rochester, however, has not been as adversely affected, Damelio said.

Traffic in October and August was down 3 percent from the same months in 2008, he said. September traffic was up from a year ago, he said.

"We're doing better than the national average," Damelio said. "When November numbers come out, hopefully we're only off by 4 or 5 percent from where we were a year ago.

"The national average is 9 (percent), so we're still doing better than most airports are. We just have to get the business traveler traveling again. We want people to get moving."