Metro-East News

MidAmerica Airport officials look to expand parking lot

File image of an Allegiant flight taking off from MidAmerica Airport.
File image of an Allegiant flight taking off from MidAmerica Airport.

St. Clair County Public Building commissioners on Monday gave the go ahead for design work for a parking lot expansion at MidAmerica Airport.

As the airport prepares to add a fifth destination later this year, airport officials are planning to add almost 250 parking spaces.

The current parking lot has 569 long-term spots, 24 short-term spots and seven employee spaces.

In December, the airport had a peak occupancy of 340 spaces with vehicles. With Allegiant Air’s recent addition of Punta Gorda/Fort Myers, and the planned June start of Destin/Fort Walton Beach route there are 64 flights scheduled in June, and 68 scheduled in July, or about 15 per week, according to county documents.

Allegiant also has flights to Las Vegas, and Orlando/Sanford and Tampa in Florida out of MidAmerica.

Based on previous airport usage, MidAmerica expects to have a demand for 667 parking spaces in June, which is 98 more than the current passenger spots, county documents say.

Cantwell said he expects to have an estimated project cost next month, with a design build plan drawn up by Impact Strategies in Fairview Heights.

“The project will require an aggressive schedule to allow completion of the expansion in time for peak passenger loads in June and July,” an airport memo to commissioners says. “The airport will consider temporary alternative parking locations on campus if necessary.”

The airport does have space to expand the lot even further if needed past the roughly 250 additional spaces being planned now.

“I’m pleased you’re recommending a modest amount rather than a way out there number,” said Commissioner Jim Nations. “I rather see us do this incrementally ... and ensure we’re not letting our reach exceed our grasp.”

Ultimately, the cost of the project will be paid for out of the Public Building Commssion’s special projects fund and not the Federal Aviation Agency, Cantwell said.

Using FAA money would take away the airport’s ability to charge for parking in the future, Cantwell said, even though charging a parking fee is not being considered.

“It’s the easy way to fly, so you don’t pay parking, you become an ultra-low cost airport as well,” Cantwell said.

Cantwell added having Allegiant contribute toward the project is not in the airlines’ business model, and it would have to do it for other airports.

Having additional parking spaces, and a little more than needed also gives the airport capacity to grow service at the airport.

“I’m going to go to an airline and say, ‘Hey, come on in here, but we don’t have any parking yet.’ You need a little bit of extra parking,” Cantwell said.

Joseph Bustos: 618-239-2451, @JoeBReporter