Could New Airport Parking Garage Lure Southwest to FYI?
With 917 parking spaces in a new four-story covered garage coming to Fresno Yosemite International Airport in 14 months, city officials expect big things.
“This project is a game-changer for Fresno,” Mayor Lee Brand said at a groundbreaking ceremony this morning.
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The $29 million parking garage is part of a larger $115 million airport expansion project dubbed “FATforward.” Expanding the terminal is a key component as well.
“It’s absolutely critical because if we don’t provide the facilities for people to be able to conveniently use the airport, they’re either not going to fly or they going to fly from somewhere else,” said Kevin Meikle, airport director.
Financing for the garage comes from a $35 million loan from the California State Infrastructure Bank at 3.15% interest.
Airport Recovering From Pandemic Low
“(The garage is) absolutely critical because if we don’t provide the facilities for people to be able to conveniently use the airport, they’re either not going to fly or they going to fly from somewhere else.” Airport director Kevin Meikle
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Fresno Yosemite experienced 2 million passengers in a twelve-month window, a major milestone, according to Meikle.
At its lowest, in April, airport business was down 93%. It has since recovered to 50% of normal operations.
“In fact, we’re recovering back quicker than most every airport in the United States. And that’s normal. We’ve done that. We did that with 9/11 and we did that with the Great Recession. And we’re doing it again with this pandemic,” Meikle said.
Starting today, Alaska Airlines added a flight to Los Angeles. In November, Volaris begins a new route to Mexico City.
“The airlines are a business and they want to capitalize on where they think they can be successful and they’re all looking at how to retool their business models during this pandemic, rethinking things. Alaska has confidence in our market,” Meikle said. “They’re all in with what we got going on here in the Valley.”
In February, the parking lot was full. Meikle said the time to build more spaces is when lots are at 80% capacity.
Still Hopeful for Southwest
Could the FATforward project finally lure Southwest Airlines?
Meikle says Fresno “remains at the top of their list.”
“It’s just a matter of when they want to pull the trigger with regard to their business strategy — their corporate model, in terms of when’s the appropriate time. So the point is, we’ll be ready for them when they come and we have constant communication with them,” Meikle said.
More Spaces Will Help the Air
The new 917-space garage will add 650 spaces to the current 2,950. That’s because the garage is going where they are parking spaces now.
Meikle said that increased parking will decrease the number of car trips in and out of the airport. For example, every time a friend, relative, or Uber/Lyft provides the ride, that is two trips each way.
“If we provide the parking, it’s one trip. That’s a huge air quality benefit as well,” Meikle said.
About 250 spaces will be lost during construction. If there is a silver lining from the pandemic, it is the loss of those spaces won’t create a parking crunch.
Councilman Optimistic About Labor Model
The city will use a project labor agreement to build the garage. The PLA is a labor contract defining who gets hired on the project. It also guarantees timetables on the project’s completion.
The project will employ 200 workers, with at least 75% from the local area.
Fresno once banned PLA for public projects. It has now embraced the model, despite objections from some in the building community.
“The essence of it for me was to empower and employ the local workforce. We spent a lot of time and energy, many meetings, and I think the result is the Fresnel model of a PLA. It is so balanced and fair, I think it will be utilized throughout the state of California,” councilman Paul Caprioglio told the audience of mainly elected officials and airport employees.
Caprioglio said he helped broker a compromise on the PLA issue as chairman of a council subcommittee.
“The Fresno model reaches that compromise where we hire, employ, train — I love the training — pre-apprenticeship. It’s really important to our community because of the lack of employment in Fresno,” Caprioglio said.
C. Overaa & Company is the main contractor for the garage.
Related Story: Airport Labor Pact Wins Unanimous Council Support
Rates To Stay the Same, Maybe Even Lower
Currently, Fresno charges $12 a day for uncovered spaces. While there is a rate on the books for covered spaces at $15 a day, it doesn’t apply — the current parking lot has no covered spaces.
Since the new garage will be covered spaces, the higher rate could apply. Meikle says he is seeking to lower it.
“We may look at that. We may try and find a way to actually lower that rate as we get closer to the garage opening as we’ll be studying that. But it certainly won’t be more than that,” Meikle said.