Airport moving ahead on $76M parking garage expansion

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Plans for a $76.6 million parking garage expansion at the Indianapolis International Airport are again moving forward, after the project was delayed more than two years by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Indianapolis Airport Authority’s board in June authorized funding for the five-story, 1,500-space addition by the north side of its existing parking structure. About 1,000 of the spaces will be used by car rental companies while the remainder will be designated for daily or hourly parking.

Jarod Klaas, senior director of planning and development for the airport authority, told IBJ the project will be beneficial for both the car companies and general users.

“The benefits are really twofold,” Klaas said. “Our desire to continue to provide a world class experience and convenience really played into” the decision to move the project forward.

That’s because many of the rental car companies are expanding their fleets and pivoting to more electric vehicles (the airport separately plans to add chargers to support more EVs). Additionally, the airport is facing a shortage of spaces in the garage, with at least two floors at or near capacity most days of a given week.

The garage expansion will be connected to the existing facility and designed in a similar manner, allowing it to blend in with the current structure. Because of that, it’s expected some interruption will occur in the existing facility, such as spaces being unavailable in part of the structure during construction, Klaas said.

The addition includes a $14.4 million, fifth-level canopy with solar panels that will power the parking facility. In terms of electric vehicles, the airport already has some available for users, but more are expected to be added as part of future improvement projects.

Klaas said long-term conversations about the airport’s parking facilities are underway as part of a master planning effort, including whether more garages could be added. The airport’s existing parking garage has 7,100 parking spaces on five floors: 1,200 for rental car fleets and 5,900 for paid public parking.

The airport’s board first approved contracts for the new garage in August 2019, allocating $2.34 million to Indianapolis architecture firm CSO Inc. to design the project. The firm also was involved in the construction of the airport’s terminal, which opened in 2008.  The airport around that time also engaged with Cincinnati-based Messer Construction Co. for project management services.

But the project—initially expected to be finished in early 2021—was put on hold in early 2020 when the pandemic shut down the travel industry. The firms were re-engaged by the airport in late 2021 to complete construction documents and prepare for work to begin, Klaas said.

The garage expansion will be debt-serviced through municipal bonds, which will be repaid using parking fees, which make up a major part of the airport’s revenue. In 2019, the airport generated about $59.4 million in parking fees.

Work on the garage is expected to start by the end of this year and conclude in the first quarter of 2024.

The garage project comes as the airport continues work on a complete rebuild of one of the airport’s three runways. That $73 million project—expected to be completed in late autumn—will be the first since the runway was built in 1989. About three-quarters of the project, $56 million, is being paid for with a grant from the Federal Aviation Administration’s Airport Improvement Program.

The concrete on the rebuilt runway and taxiway will be about 22 inches thick and is expected to last about 40 years. Rebuild plans for the other two runways, including one that is similar in age, will likely come in the next few years, Klaas said.

“We’ve already begun the … capital program to reflect the likely need to do the northern parallel [runway] in a similar manner,” he said.

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24 thoughts on “Airport moving ahead on $76M parking garage expansion

  1. Great to read that airport authority is following a sound policy regarding periodic maintenance. It is critical that infrastructure state-of-good-repair be prioritized.

    Regarding the parking structure, what is the long term projected parking need. Certainly more spaces are better than fewer, but at what opportunity cost.

    Albeit a lovely airport, IND offer relatively few flights. And many are with commuter jets (aka puddle jumpers) to a major hub. A great improvement would be more direct flights along with an article describing the airport authority’s long range plan to increase flight options and destinations.

    1. Agreed! I’m sure it’s difficult to contemplate many more direct flights in this moment given pilot shortages. But, in the long term Derek C is absolutely correct. It would be nice to see how the authority will make improvements in this regard.

    1. It’s not clear from the article that the rental companies will be adding a thousand more cars at KIND, or whether 1,000 of the existing rental cars will be shifted to the new addition which then frees up those spaces for travelers in the more convenient part of the garage. it is also not clear whether rental companies get “free parking” (as you seem to think) or whether some of the $59 million in parking fees in fact is derived from the rental car companies.

    2. I would imagine that the costs are born by those renting the cars through a fee the car rental companies pay the airport.

    3. The car rental companies currently pay over $10 million in fees to the airport plus lease payments for the space they occupy.

  2. when are we getting light rail to downtown? some of the infrastructure is already there. you leave the airport and there are stops at zoo/park area, lilly, the stadium, convention center, gov center, the circle is easy to reach. you leave downtown – no traffic, you’re at the airport. it’s staring us right in the face. someone will say the tracks are different, not modern, blah blah blah. I don’t want to hear it…other similar sized cities have done it.

    want more flights? make it easy to get in and out of here without needing a car.

    we also need a nice hotel attached to the airport – check out the Westin in Denver…also checkout all the rail in that city, which was an old cow town and isn’t that much bigger than indy (less than a million people, metro area).

    1. There’s a rail line that runs to the northern edge of the airport property already.

      A way to get all those convention guests downtown quickly/easily, I’d think, would be helpful to Visit Indy when trying to land conventions…

    2. The new Amtrak rail service plans call for a station at the airport, linking it to downtown. The plan calls for four daily trains running between Chicago and Louisville/Cincinnati. In the meantime, the Republican-controlled state legislature’s ban on light rail in Indianapolis remains in effect.

    3. Blue Line is our “light rail”.

      Not sure where you got your numbers but the Denver metro area has almost 3 million people and Indy is more like 2.1 million.

    4. Light Rail will never be built. GOP-backed (thank you Mike Pence) state statue against light rail or streetcar. Perhaps a private company could build something along railroad rights of way or vacated public rights of way.

      The justification for light rail may not exist as downtown Indianapolis as well as circulation patterns may not support rail from the cost efficiency standpoint. But, things could change. Having a state statue against light rail send the wrong message about Indiana: rather than adhering to a comprehensive review and evaluation process, Indiana’s governor and other legislators, without any transportation planning expertise, decided that light rail was “an expensive toy.”

      Denver is a much larger and progressive metropolitan area whose planning is not hamstrung by unknowledgeable and vindictive state legislators. However, the rail line to Denver’s airport is commuter rail that was built along a portion of Union Pacific Railroad right of way through a negotiated agreement for payment and design and along along a preserved right-of-way for transportation that was dedicated with implementation of the airport.

      However, Indianapolis metro population is not dissimilar to that of Salt Lake City UT(a so called “Red” region), Portland OR, Sacramento CA and others with do have light rail. Fortunately, these cities do have local control.

      Is is not odd that the much praised GOP base tenet of local control does not truly apply to Indianapolis.

      At least, let the Blue Line and please, much needed improvements to West Washington Street occur. The stretch from 465 to Rockville Rd is particularly horrible, an embarrassment providing the worst possible impression of a visitor for Indianapolis conventions: poor infrastructure, no continuous sidewalks, inconsistent street lighting on wooden poles, traffic signals on saggy span wire — unattractive and awful.

    5. To be frank, Denver’s airport is also 25 miles/40 minutes away from downtown. Indianapolis is 12 miles/15 minutes.

    6. There is no light rail because there is no demand for it and it is not financially feasible. Amtrack would have been bankrupt 20 years ago without billions in tax subsidies. The rail to Chicago failed because it takes 5 hours and you can drive there in 3 (insert comments from liberals calling for a billion dollar high speed rail). Same for Cin and Lville. There is no demand, you can drive there quicker, and what happens if your destination is not downtown in either city?
      As for the IND-downtown line, do the cool progressives have any actual data? What % of IND arrivals are headed downtown, as opposed to Carmel, Fishers, Greenwood, or simply home? My guess is the demand is much lower than you think and there is also a cost. Just because there are tracks headed west there would still be a large startup and ongoing cost for a relatively small number of travelers

    7. Let’s deconstruct some statements without justification or insufficient context.

      “There is no light rail because there is no demand.” There is insufficient (not ‘no’) demand for IND. IND is but a minor airport with few flight, a small employment base, and insufficient adjacent development to attract sufficient riders. IND (along with Columbus, Cincinnati, Louisville and other mid-size metros in the shadow of the major hubs of ORD or DET) will likely never have the need for rail. A bus is adequate for IND.

      “Amtrack [sic] would have been bankrupt 20 years ago without billions in tax subsidies.” The problem with this statement is that Amtrak was set up as a subsidized rail operation. Interstates would also be bankrupt if the objective is to make profits. The objective of transportation, both roadway and rail, is to operate with efficiently and effectiveness factors that minimize cost. One should note that expensive multi-lane freeways are designed to accommodate higher demand peak hours, the remaining hours they rest underutilized. Continuously adding lane reaches a point of inefficiency as the cost for the few minutes gained in travel time is not justified. However, tolled facilities better deck the maintenance costs that high and ongoing. Roads are not free and taxes insufficient to fund needs, let along desires

      “The rail to Chicago failed because it takes 5 hours and you can drive there in 3 (insert comments from liberals calling for a billion dollar high speed rail).” Rail in the United States along with Congress is the laughingstock of many other countries. True, travel time for most routes have not improved since 1939 (feel free to check historical timetables, of pre-Amtrak and pre-consolidation railroads. Given that, as the US has chosen not to build true high-speed rail — average speed of 180mph and top speeds of 220 — like the TGV in France, ACE in Spain, ICE in Germany, Trenitalia in Italy and those in Japan and China — agreed, why not drive, fly, or take the bus. High speed rail such as those noted has been in operation for decades, yet the US is truly third-world regarding rail. If real high speed rail were available, the demand would be there. Chicago in 1.5 hours, yes please. Actually high speed rail between IND and Chicago airports would allow IND to serve as a reliever airport and with a stop in the south metro of Chicago (like Munster IN or an adjacent IL suburb) that would open IND to a broad population base.

      The brutal environmental analysis to get projects done in the US bogs down progress and drives up cost unnecessarily. Of course, frivolous lawsuits exacerbate an already laborious situation. Trump was right about the need for some environmental streamlining. Just think of all the dollars, time and effort spent on air quality analyses for transportation projects, particularly rail and bus, when all know that if each rail vehicle or bus emitted zero (0) pollutants, the effect on air quality improvement is minimal — no significant improvement can be achieved until vehicles, i.e. cars, trucks, SUVs, become less polluting.

      Alas, just drive.

      “Same for Cin and Lville. There is no demand, you can drive there quicker, and what happens if your destination is not downtown in either city?” If there were no demand, I-65 would be empty. Let’s move on. Many people fly, right. And how many have destinations at the airport? Few, one would opine.

      “As for the IND-downtown line, do the cool progressives have any actual data? What % of IND arrivals are headed downtown, as opposed to Carmel, Fishers, Greenwood, or simply home? My guess is the demand is much lower than you think and there is also a cost. Just because there are tracks headed west there would still be a large startup and ongoing cost for a relatively small number of travelers.” Why is this statement couched in the pejorative (‘cool progressives have any actual data’). Transportation is not a matter of ‘cool’ or ‘progressive’ or ‘conservative’ but a need to be assessed, analyzed, and addressed. Individual of each label require transportation. Any if one review data from cities with rail or bus connections to the airport, the cross section of users display those of various outlooks — not surprisingly, progressives, moderates, and conservation en route to a flight. Please also note that Denver, for example, operated a very good express bus system to the airport before the rail line was completed — express buses from several suburban areas of the metro as well as downtown Denver.

    8. I always find it interesting that one of the arguments made against light rail is that it is not financial viable. Yet, the people who make that argument never seem to question or consider how financially detrimental auto oriented transit is. Our current infrastructure is in poor condition and there are new lanes/revamps being done to account for increasing automobiles on the road.

      The conversation really needs to change and we need to recognize the cost of living in communities that are car centric. I’m not saying we need to ban cars but we do need to see the true cost of them. It takes way more infrastructure to move people in cars than it does by mass transit (bus, rail), bike, walk, etc.

      Rail could help Indy get more flights but I think the most helpful thing is increasing the population of Indy. (which you can argue that rail would help do)

      Unfortunately, we are unlikely to see rail in Indy. Transit has become largely a partisan issue. Democrats usually argue for publicly funded rail for climate change reasons. You can have privately funded transit though and there are lots of reasons for doing so beyond the climate. On the other hand republicans are content with things as they are and don’t acknowledge the problems/downsides with how much car centric we are.

  3. The airport authority has done a great job of building first rate facilities and planning for the future. A real model of how the public sector in Indiana should operate.

    1. I tend to agree that IND is great but do not lose sight of the fact that it generates tons of revenue. The extent of the facilities it is responsible for is minuscule when compared to what the city is responsible for but the city doesn’t receive sufficient funding to properly maintain it all.

  4. Is there still plans for the new hotel discussed in 2018? This project is really needed for proximity to the terminal. Also would love to see the IND letters as proposed at the airport entrance.

    1. They airport should just supersize the “Indy” sculpture Visit Indy has seemingly everywhere.

  5. Will the airport authority planners who are thoughtfully making continued investments in airport infrastructure please begin advising our less-than-thoughtful Mayor about our roadways? There are those in this city who could make this happen, but the Mayor seems to be an obstacle.

    1. And why would airport planner be beneficial in advising the mayor about city roadways. Giving that this article address the airport and runway infrastructure which is quite different from the design and funding standpoint as opposed to hundreds of miles of urban streets. Certainly, the roadway network for the airport is adequate, both interstates under the jurisdiction of INDOT, airport roadways under the airport’s jurisdiction, and local streets under the city’s jurisdictions — that is, the Department of Public Works as they report to the City-County Council and the Mayor. And, capacity on the primary airport access route, I-70, is more that adequate for the current traffic volumes as the design is for a distant future year.

      And what specifically are the desired roadway improvement and who, exactly, can make these improvements. Are the improvements funded within fiscal limits of short and long-range planning. Which desired improvements are not in the 2022 and 2023/beyond plans. And, would the desired projects be the responsibility of the City of Indianapolis, INDOT, or other jurisdictions. What specific obstacles has the mayor presented?

    2. The mayor isn’t the obstacle, funding is the obstacle. You probably love to hate the mayor, but don’t forget that his predecessor sold off major assets (the water and sanitary sewer systems) and promptly wasted those millions on making roads pretty but not truly repairing them (plus $6M+ for a cricket field).