New rental car center, parking garage planned for Austin airport

Plans are under way for a new three- to four-level centralized rental car center and parking garage at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

On July 29, the Austin City Council authorized spending up to $7 million for a consortium of rental car companies operating at ABIA to undertake design and planning services for the proposed rental car center and garage. The $7 million will come from a fund containing revenue from fees paid by rental car customers at ABIA.

Other U.S. airports that have opened or are planning so-called “consolidated rental car facilities” include Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International, Las Vegas’ McCarran International, Chicago Midway International, Cleveland Hopkins International, Los Angeles International, Mineta San Jose International, Miami International, Seattle-Tacoma International and Memphis International.

Nearly $420 million is being spent to construct and equip Seattle-Tacoma’s five-floor, 2.1-million-square-foot consolidated rental car facility, scheduled to open in 2012.

Since ABIA opened in 1999, rental car pickups and returns have taken place on the third level of the airport’s terminal parking garage; about 1,200 rental car parking spots are on that level. Rental car counters and offices are on the bottom level of the airport terminal, and each rental car company operates a location northwest of the ABIA terminal for fueling, washing and cleaning vehicles.

The first two levels of the terminal garage are used for public parking—about 2,400 spaces.

As passenger traffic has increased at ABIA, the need for more space for rental car pickups and returns has grown, city officials say.

Airport officials and rental car company representatives agree that building a new rental car center and parking garage on the current site of ABIA’s surface-parking Lot A “is the best way to move forward” to address that need. The project will consolidate rental car pickup and return operations; customer service counters; and fueling, cleaning and storage facilities on the two lower levels. Upper levels will be set aside for public parking.

The terminal space currently occupied by rental car counters will be needed in the future for more baggage carousels, city officials say. The third level of the existing parking garage will revert to ABIA for public parking.

Officials say the ABIA project will be built under a public-private partnership; the price tag hasn’t been determined. Letting the rental car companies take the lead on design, construction and financing will speed up the project, officials say.

In March, the City Council authorized $454,000 in funding for the rental car companies at ABIA to perform an initial feasibility study for the rental car center and parking garage.

To see a video of a rough landing at ABIA, click here.

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