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Published May 26, 2010, 12:00 AM

Hector Airport set to expand parking

Congestion in lots forces move; officials looking into possibility of ramp
Fargo’s Hector International Airport will expand parking this summer for the second consecutive year, and officials are reviewing several long-term options – including a parking ramp – to handle future fliers.

Fargo’s Hector International Airport will expand parking this summer for the second consecutive year, and officials are reviewing several long-term options – including a parking ramp – to handle future fliers.

The Municipal Airport Authority voted Tuesday to add 219 long-term parking spaces, one year after adding nearly 400 spaces to the pay lot and rental lot.

“What we found out is that we were significantly congested during those early winter months,” said airport Executive Director Shawn Dobberstein.

When local college students went on spring break in March, only eight of the long-term lot’s 1,258 spaces were empty, “which was a bit scary,” said Clint Joy of Standard Parking, the private firm that manages the airport’s parking.

Through April, the average number of overnight vehicles jumped 26 percent over the same period last year, Joy said. Even a 2 percent increase in overnight vehicles will create capacity problems for the airport next March, he projected.

“The time frame to do this, in my opinion, is now,” he said.

The expansion will cost an estimated $450,000 and involve paving over grassy areas and relocating trees in and around the existing lot. Construction is expected to start in August and wrap up in November, Dobberstein said.

Authority member Don Kilander said it may be merely a stopgap measure to deal with the airport’s rapidly rising passenger count. He suggested a broader scope in looking at Hector’s growing pains.

“I just feel like sometimes we’re the little Dutch boy and we don’t have enough thumbs to fill all the leaks in the dike,” he said.

A study conducted in 2005 to justify a terminal expansion at the airport projected it would accommodate 368,000 passengers by 2020. This year, with the passenger count already up 15.8 percent through April, the airport could surpass 370,000, Dobberstein said.

“That’s how fast we’re growing,” he said. “Now, whether or not that’s going to continue, no one knows, but we’re trying to look into the crystal ball … and get our arms around what we need to do.”

Among the options are a parking ramp, an elevated walkway system extending to the far corners of an expanded parking lot, and additional lots farther from the terminal that would be served by shuttles.

A breakdown of the options provided by Joy shows expanding the south overflow lot by 484 spaces would cost an estimated $1.14 million and require shuttle service.

Providing the same number of parking ramp spaces would cost roughly $7.2 million to

$8.7 million, based on Joy’s estimate of $15,000 to $18,000 per space – a price authority Chairman Ken Pawluk considers too high at this point.

“I don’t think that it’s responsible to even consider building a parking ramp until you’ve maximized the available spaces that you have,” he said.

Parking crunch

The average number of overnight vehicles parked at Hector International Airport in Fargo has risen substantially over the past five years, according to Standard Parking, which manages the airport’s parking.

  • 2005 to 2006: up 21.14 percent.

  • 2006 to 2007: down 0.48 percent.

  • 2007 to 2008: up 12.65 percent.

  • 2008 to 2009: up 9.64 percent.

  • 2009 to 2010: up 26.25 percent (year to date)


Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528

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