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Council set to consider airport parking fees Tuesday

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Airport Parking

A sign designates the parking spaces at Flagstaff’s Pulliam Airport for terminal customers and staff only.

Travelers departing from Flagstaff Pulliam Airport could soon pay up to $6 per day for parking.

The regional airport has offered free parking for years – one of the last to do so. However, that will change if the Flagstaff City Council approves an ordinance that would implement paid parking at the airport.

The ordinance would cover the costs of a new parking lot set to more than double the number of available spaces, according to Airport Director Barney Helmick. The matter will be considered during Tuesday’s council meeting and  Dec. 28.

The current 385-space lot was constructed to serve what was then a relatively-limited regional airport. However, the airport has expanded significantly in recent years with routes to Dallas, Los Angeles and Denver.

The parking lot is often overflowing with cars during the peak spring and summer seasons, leading some to park along the forested side of Pulliam Drive and on islands between the parking lot and road.

The airport has seen record numbers in recent years with a high of 124,000 passengers departing from the airport in 2019, according to Helmick. While numbers fell in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Helmick said 2021 is likely set to meet or surpass 2019 rates. October was the airport’s busiest month ever with approximately 14,303 travelers, surpassing the previous record of more than 13,000 in October 2019.

Under the proposed ordinance, parking will remain free for the first hour, then $2 for each additional hour. The existing Terminal Lot will cost $7 per day until July 1, 2022, when the fee would increase to $8. The Terminal Lot rate tops out at $48 per week.

The new Terminal Economy Lot fees are a proposed $5 per day until July 1, 2022, and would then bump up to $6. The weekly rate is set for $36.

Both lots will utilize gates and charge based on the number of days a vehicle is parked using the license plate.

Officials examined other airports throughout the region and state to determine the rates. The new parking fees are still significantly lower than Phoenix Sky Harbor, where parking prices often top out at more than $15 per day in city-provided lots.

The Terminal Economy Lot, which is currently under construction, will add 413 parking spaces. The new lot will feature internal walkways and a sidewalk to the terminal, as well as two entry and exit locations with a gate-arm system. The addition of the new lot will also allow for further expansion of electric-vehicle charging stations and bike paths. It’s set to be completed in the first half of 2022.

If the ordinance is approved, the existing lot will be renovated and an entry and exit gate-arm system will be added to accommodate the paid parking system.

An approximate $4.9 million was borrowed from the city’s general fund to cover the construction and improvements. Parking staff, increased utilities, landscape maintenance, snow management, credit card fees, software and yearly pavement maintenance will cost an additional $288,000 annually.  

The addition of the parking fees will restore that money in about a decade and cover the ongoing operational and maintenance needs, according to Helmick, adding that the goal is for the airport to one day be “self-sufficient.”  

Any future increases must be approved by the council.

The council will vote on whether to adopt the ordinance at the Dec. 28 meeting. If approved, the ordinance will go into effect at the end of January, but Helmick said the implementation of paid parking likely won’t begin until the entire system is in place.

The matter will be open to public comment during Tuesday’s 3 p.m. meeting. However, Helmick said he’s heard little opposition to the plan so far.

Reporter Bree Burkitt can be reached at bburkitt@azdailysun.com or on Twitter at @breeburkitt.

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