Airport Ramp Plan Moves Ahead

August 8, 2005
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GRAND RAPIDS — The Kent County Aeronautics Board gave the green light recently for work to proceed on the final design and project financing plans for a four-level, 4,800-space parking ramp to be built in front of Ford International Airport’s terminal building.

As designed by Gresham Smith and Partners and Carl Walker Consultants, the $79 million parking structure includes sky bridges from the ramp to the terminal; escalator lobbies; a 500-foot glass and steel canopy for shelter from the elements; an entrance security plaza; and roadway modifications.

The entire project is expected to cost $120 million to construct. The funding plan includes Airport Improvement Plan funds, Transportation Security Administration funds, Customer Facility Charge and Passenger Facility Charge funds, Aeronautics Department funds and revenue bond proceeds of approximately $100 million.

The board approved an agreement with Public Financial Management Inc. for assistance in structuring a financial package, selecting an underwriter, developing financial documents, the credit rating review process and closing activities.

“They will work as part of the financing team and put together a plan for how we’re going to sell the bonds and what the size of the bonds will be,” said Brian Picardat, the airport’s director of finance and administration. “We’ll have a bank that will actually issue the bonds for us and go out and sell them to people. PFM will assist us in the process of pricing those bonds.”

Aeronautics Director James Koslosky had warned the board at a workshop meeting in June that if nothing is done, the airport would run out of parking space, given current growth levels of 3 percent to 4 percent a year. If a low-cost carrier were to sign on to serve the airport, the passenger traffic would increase by nearly 30 percent annually and the airport could run out of parking, he said.

According to Gavin Duncan, a financial consultant with Leigh Fisher Associates, a rate structure of $12 a day for the ramp, $9 a day for long-term parking, combined with $8 a day for Express Shuttle parking could yield approximately $4 million to $5 million in annual revenue. Parking ramp rates have yet to be decided.

Koslosky noted at the June meeting that the board chose in 1999 to provide design services for the ramp, but capital projects were halted following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The preliminary design phase was restarted in 2003. He said the financial feasibility and sources of funding have also been under study since then.    

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