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Airport considering privatizing parking operations

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The Indianapolis Airport Authority agreed at its monthly meeting this morning to explore turning over management of the airport’s parking operations to an outside company.

Using a private operator for parking could bring in between $350 million to $500 million in additional revenue over the length of a 50-year lease for the cash-strapped Indianapolis International Airport, authority spokeswoman Susan Sullivan said. Sullivan emphasized that estimate was “very preliminary.”  

The airport is facing a budget shortfall because of fewer flights as well as higher costs from the new, $1.1 billion Weir Cook terminal that opened last year. The airport now pays a mortgage on the terminal of about $40 million a year.  

“Even if we issue requests for information, there is no commitment to act on them,” Sullivan said. “This is not something we would enter into lightly.”

Fewer than 15 percent of the nation’s midsize airports manage their own parking operations, she said.

The airport has 100 employees dedicated to parking services. Any privatization agreement would need to ensure the workers kept their jobs, Sullivan said. Parking fees account for about 50 percent of the airport’s $76 million in non-airline revenue. Total annual revenue at the airport is expected to be $127 million in 2010.

The authority voted last month to raise airport parking rates Sept. 1. Garage parking rose from $16 to $18; long-term parking from $11 to $12 and economy-lot parking from $7 to $9. Express valet parking also rose, from $18 to $20.

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