More parking is on its way to the Gainesville Regional Airport.
The Gainesville-Alachua County Regional Airport Authority held a neighborhood workshop Tuesday evening at the Gainesville airport to hear Robert Palm of AVCON Inc., an Orlando-based engineering and planning firm, speak about the three-phase expansion of its parking lot.
As the airport grows, it overflows its parking lot more often, making the construction of new parking necessary, said Allan Penksa, the chief executive officer of the airport since 2007. AVCON’s current designs show an addition of 221 spots.
Currently, when the parking lot becomes full, travelers park in a grass overflow lot. The final phase of the project would pave the grass overflow area.
“I think it’ll be a net positive benefit to the traveling public,” Palm said. “They won’t have to walk through dirt and mud.”
The workshop was required by the City of Gainesville to notify members of the public of the project, Laura Aguiar, the airport’s spokeswoman, wrote in an email.
“It is required for the permitting process even if no one attends,” she wrote.
Other than airport officials, one person – a representative from a landscaping company that works with AVCON – was present.
The first phase of the project is for long-term parking and would add 101 spots, according to a report provided at the workshop. The two additional phases – one for long-term parking and the other for mixed-use parking – call for the creation of 36 and 84 spots, respectively.
Palm, who works out of his company’s Jacksonville office, estimates that phase one will cost about $600,000 and phase two about $300,000. The final phase of the project, he said, will likely cost between $650,000 and $700,000.
Penksa said the projects will be paid for using 50-50 grant money already set aside by the Florida Department of Transportation and fees collected from parking, rental cars and other services. The grants will be released over the next couple years, with the first grant coming this summer.
The expansion will allow the airport to repave some of its 650 existing spots. Penksa does not know of a time since 1979, when the parking lot was first paved, that it has been repaved.
“To fix the things that you have in this environment, you have to have some excess capacity,” he said.
The parking addition comes less than a year after the airport upgraded the existing parking pay stations, partially automating the process and creating a third line for vehicles to pay – a welcome modification for many passengers who park at the airport.
“What we have not had is complaints about the time it takes when a flight arrives at night to get out of the parking lot,” Penksa said, noting that most people now are able to exit the parking lot in a few minutes.
The airport is also applying for a grant from the Federal Aviation Administration to build a new fire station and expand its terminal. Penksa said the application process for that grant starts in late June, with notice of any potential award coming in September.