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More parking, more convenience likely at airport

By Bob Freund

freund@postbulletin.com

Air travelers and motorists meeting flights at the Rochester International Airport should find the drive into the terminal complex more colorful — and informative — this fall.

They’ll likely find nearly 200 more parking spots available there, and paying their parking fees will be as easy as the swipe of a credit card.

If the City Council agrees with its Airport Commission, which oversees the city-owned airfield, those improvements will be installed this fall.

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Motorists will notice changes as soon as they turn onto a newly smoothed Helgerson Drive Southwest, the road to the terminal. They’ll drive past banners flying from street lights. In addition, "There’s a lot of landscaping in this," Airport Manager Steve Leqve says.

Approaching the parking area, drivers will look up to an electronic sign over the roadway. It will blink time, temperature, weather and, possibly, flights scheduled to arrive or depart.

Motorists who are meeting passengers from an arrival might pull up into a type of cell-phone zone. Airport managers are considering designating an area where motorists can wait in their cars for the call to pick up their passengers at the terminal door. At the same time, the airport also offers 15 minutes of free time in its parking lot, assistant airport manager Kurt Claussen said Tuesday at an Airport Commission meeting.

People wanting to park will pull into a rehabilitated and larger lot. The airport is adding close to 200 new spaces of long-term parking on the northwest end of the current lot. The additional section will expand total parking to about 850 spaces, with 150 designated for short-term parking and the remaining 700 for longer-term parking.

Then, on the way out, patrons will choose to pay parking fees by cash to a live attendant or by credit or debit card. The airport plans to install card readers on both exit lanes, Leqve said. Currently one lane is used.

The Airport Commission approved more than $1 million worth of work for those improvements to the main terminal drive and parking lot. The city actually will end up paying 20 percent of the $415,000 cost for the drive and half of the $627,000 cost of the parking project, with the Minnesota Department of Transportation paying the rest, Leqve said.

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