University Park Airport has added 250 new parking spaces to its credit card lot amid the airport’s most highly trafficked week in history.
Chris Groshel, chairman of the Centre County Airport Authority, said the addition of 250 parking spots means the airport is about a third of the way through its parking lot expansion and renovation. Phases two and three will provide new road access to and from the terminal and parking areas from Fox Hill Road, add handicapped parking spaces, a bus stop and expanded parking exit kiosk, move the terminal entrance about 500-600 feet and install a covered walkway for pedestrians to travel from the parking lot area to the terminal. The entire project will wrap up late next year.
The parking lot expansion began in June and the additional parking spots are set to open Tuesday.
Since the introduction of Allegiant Air service to two Florida destinations two weeks ago, the number of passengers going through security has increased, Groshel said. This week, based on booking numbers from the airlines, 5,100 people are set to go through security.
“That’s an all-time high for us,” he said.
Typically, passenger numbers hover between 3,000 to 3,700 per week, but had started to climb to 4,000 earlier this year, Groshel said.
In June, airport Executive Director Bryan Rodgers told the CDT that Allegiant Air’s partnership could push the airport’s record 150,000 passengers boarding airplanes in 2018 up to 175,000 annually.
Because there is such growing demand for air travel out of University Park, Groshel said, the Centre County Airport Authority voted to approve a feasibility study for a terminal expansion plan. Through the study, Hoffman Leakey Architects of Boalsburg will determine the cost and logistics of adding a second floor to the terminal and reorganizing the first floor, he said.
Right now, the authority is looking at moving the security area to the second floor and reconfiguring the first floor by putting in a second baggage belt, different dining layout and more facilities for passengers. Additionally, the authority wants to install four jet bridges, which are covered, movable connectors from terminal gates to an airplane, with plans to install four more at a later date.
An expansion would also allow seating for over 500 passengers in the secure area, as opposed to the 230 passenger capacity in the current area.
Some mornings, the secure area is close to “maxing out” its space because of the high number of passengers flying out, Groshel said.
Once completed, the feasibility study would give authority members an idea of terminal expansion costs and how to gather funding for that project, he said. The authority is looking at federal and state funding options to complete the project without using local dollars.
Hoffman Leakey’s consultant team will present the study’s findings at a public meeting of the airport authority on Dec. 5, he said. If the authority approves the feasibility study results, the airline terminal expansion is slated to take a year of design work and two additional years of construction.
“We’re very thrilled and we’re working hard to give everybody a better experience out of the terminal,” Groshel said.