San Antonio International Airport will soon include a Consolidated Rental Car Facility (CONRAC) connected to the two terminals by a new skybridge that will greatly reduce the time rental car customers spend picking up or dropping off their vehicles.
The seven-level facility will open March 2018.
“We’ve heard from many people who return a rental car by leaving it on the side of the road because they can’t remember or locate exactly where they got it from,” said Councilmember Joe Krier (D9) during the Wednesday B session briefing by Aviation Department officials.
The more than 1.8 million sq. ft. structure will replace a short-term parking garage and adjacent surface parking. The first two levels of the CONRAC will provide 1,400 dedicated short-term public parking spaces – more than what exists at the airport today.
With growth, of course, comes temporary inconvenience and passengers should adjust accordingly and allow more time for navigating the parking if they are not being dropped off.
Four and a half levels will provide rental car agencies with 3,100 parking spaces, as well as customer service centers and facilities to maintain and wash vehicles.
On June 18, the last regular meeting before the summer recess, the Council will consider several action items related to the project, including financing, construction contracts, and lease agreements with the rental car firms operating at the CONRAC.
City staff has proposed issuing $123.7 million in Customer Facility Charge (CFC) revenue bonds, and $38.8 million in airport system revenue improvement bonds, to support the $165.6 million project. The CFC is part of the overall rental car charge, an added cost that the Council adopted in March 2012.
The current CFC at the airport is $4.50 per transaction day. City staff proposes raising that rate to $5 per day, effective July 1, with a second projected increase to $5.50 in fiscal year 2019.
Aviation Department Director Frank Miller said construction will begin Aug. 1. The existing short-term parking garage will close. The public parking part of the CONRAC will not open until March 2017.
Until then, visitors to the airport will have the option of parking in the long-term parking garage or in an overflow public lot at the southwest corner of Airport Boulevard and Dee Howard Way.
During the construction of CONRAC’s parking lot, rates at the long-term garage remain the current rates: free for the first 15 minutes, $2 between 16 and the first 60 minutes, $4 for two hours, $6 for three hours, $8 for four hours, $11 for 24 hours.
If additional parking is needed during peak travel times, overflow public parking will be made available at the southeast end of Northern Boulevard near Loop 410.
The current rate for an overflow parking area is a flat $8 per day fee. The City proposes changing the rate structure for overflow parking areas to allow for incremental parking: $2 for one hour, $4 for two hours, $6 for three hours, $8 for more than three hours.
Miller acknowledged the construction and detours will be an inconvenience to many visitors, especially during the early stages of the project. He said the city plans to use its website, social media, flyers, etc. to advise people about the construction and parking alternatives.
The parking challenges should prove to be a boon for taxis and shuttles and serve as a reminder to many that navigating the airport would be a lot easier with Uber and Lyft in the mix.
Airport personnel could be stationed at entry points to help direct motorists if necessary, Miller said. Those parking in the long-term garage can use a walkway, curving on the eastern part of the construction site, to access the terminal building.
Individuals physically unable to use the walkway, traveling with children or would prefer not to walk can ride a free shuttle, which will pick up riders at two stops along the northeastern part of the garage facing the terminal building and construction site. Drop-offs will be made in the same spots.
Three transportation services have filed bids with the City to provide the service. Authorizing the temporary busing contract, not to exceed $4.29 million, will be one of the items the Council will vote on June 18.
“This is all about the traveler’s experience,” said Mike Frisbie, director of the City’s Transportation and Capital Improvements (TCI) Department. “A traveler should not have to go all over the place in the airport to get done what he/she needs done.”
In response to questions from council members, Miller said the City has worked to ensure the rental car firms are involved in the project planning process.
“The rental car industry is on board with this plan and paying for a CONRAC and more public parking,” Miller said. “They see the benefit of people being closer to the terminals and having a shorter walk.”
The CONRAC project has long been in the making. The Council originally signed off on the idea in March 2012. Miller said it has taken several years to assemble “the right team and financing.” TranSystems is the project designer. Turner Construction Co. will operate as the general contractor.
All such capital projects include a public art component. With a budget of $1.49 million, the City’s Culture and Creative Development (CCD) will look for ways to add a visual touch of San Antonio to the CONRAC facility’s exterior.
CCD is working with local artist Riley Robinson, who will be the first to have an art installation at the CONRAC. CCD Director Felix Padrón said digitally composed art will be part of long-term aesthetics at the new structure.
“We are trying to do something no other airport has really done: Have the skin of a building be artistically programmed throughout the year,” Padrón added.
City officials said the consolidation of rental car services and expansion of public parking is the next step in the airport's evolution and modernization. The airport has added more nonstop domestic and international flights in recent years.
Councilmember Rey Saldaña (D4) singled out the value of public art greeting many of the eight million passengers who use the airport each year.
“This is just another phase of improvements at the airport. I’m looking forward to the meshing of our capital investment with creativity and art,” Saldaña said.
*Featured/top image: Plans for the San Antonio Airport's new Consolidated Rental Car Facility. Courtesy rendering.