XNA to track vacant spaces in $35 million parking deck, expand economy lot

by Jeff Della Rosa (JDellaRosa@nwabj.com) 1,443 views 

Work continues on $35 million parking deck at Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport, with plans announced to install technology to track vacant parking spaces in the deck.

Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport plans to install an electronic guidance system to track vacant spaces in the top three levels of the four-story parking deck and add 200 parking spaces to the economy lot.

XNA’s operations committee, which comprises of members of the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport Authority, recommended both projects to the board, which is set to meet Wednesday (Feb. 14). ParkSonic would install the $494,379 guidance system, and Tomlinson Asphalt Co. would complete the $472,185 economy lot expansion cost.

The guidance system would allow those who use the parking deck to more easily find available parking spots as the vacant spaces would be tracked and the number displayed on digital signs. Above each of the 1,153 parking spaces on the top three floors of the parking deck will be a LED light that changes color depending on space availability. If it’s vacant, the light will be green. If occupied, it will be red. Also, on each floor and row will be digital signs showing the number of available parking spaces. The cloud-based system will operate on Wi-Fi and will be managed by Republic Parking System, the Chattanooga, Tenn.-based company that oversees the nearly 4,000 parking spaces at the airport.

When asked if the public would be able to access the system via the internet or smartphone app, CEO Scott Van Laningham was uncertain and would need to determine whether it would be a safety issue. Also, Van Laningham said the system won’t include the ability to reserve parking spaces as it is difficult to administer.

Airport Director Kelly Johnson said XNA has not offered a system like this before, but they are becoming more standard at airports. Clinton National Airport in Little Rock retrofitted its parking deck with the system two or three years ago.

“We believe that having the overhead lighting system and the signs for the rows is going to be a real first-class touch for this facility,” Johnson said.

Another feature of the system will be orange lights above the spaces with electric charging stations. The parking deck will have two spots for electric charging, with the ability to add two more per level, if needed.

The first level won’t need the guidance system as it will be used by the rental car companies. The plan is once the rental car companies move from the parking deck to an adjacent deck planned exclusively for the companies, the first floor would be retrofitted to operate on the system, which can be retrofitted within five years. The cost would have been $578,532 to install the system for all 1,489 parking spaces in the parking deck. The ground level has 336 spaces, while the other floors have between 376 and 389 spaces.

John Leavens, senior vice president of the airport division for Republic Parking, said the system is automatic, will operate continually and won’t require staffing. The installation of the system will start as soon as the parking spaces are painted on the parking deck. Once work starts, it’s expected to be completed in nine to 11 weeks.

Van Laningham said installing the guidance system shouldn’t impact the projected completion date for the $35 million parking deck project, which is expected to be completed in August. Also, the guidance system project includes $28,926 for spare parts, and the parking deck project won’t exceed the $35 million budget as a result of the guidance system project.

The airport is working to determine parking rates for the parking deck and from which existing lots customers will move to park in the parking deck. Johnson explained staff is looking at other airports with parking decks to determine rates in order to be competitive, but is looking to start at $14 per day. Tulsa International Airport charges between $13 and $13.75 per day, while Clinton National Airport charges $13 per day.

“Regular travelers tend to park in the same space in the same area all the time, so that’s going to be the thing that we’re going to want to do to encourage folks to go into that garage,” said Robert Linehart Jr., executive vice president of the airport division for Republic Parking. “But they will find their way into that garage because this is so convenient, significantly more convenient than one of Tulsa’s garages which still require you to get on a shuttle bus and be shuttled to the airport. Again, the proximity to the terminal is just going to be extremely convenient. Fourteen dollars is a great deal.”

The airport has a high percentage of regular travelers, Van Laningham said. And, 62.4% of the airport’s passengers are business travelers, Johnson said.

Republic Parking oversees four to five parking decks with similar guidance systems and more than 70 parking decks in the United States and Canada, Linehart said.

Garver engineer Adam White said the project to add the spaces to the existing economy lot is expected to start after spring break and should be completed in 60 days once work starts.

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