Palm Beach Builds Seven-Story Parking Garage

Jim Faber
Published in: 

Palm Beach International Airport (PBI) has a lot of changes planned, and the first big project is complete and already being used by the flying public.

It's tough to miss. The new seven-story parking garage opened in August, ahead of a revision to the airport's master plan that calls for even more broad expansions of the Florida airport.

The $64.7 million garage has room for 3,430 vehicles - a net increase of nearly 3,000 spaces, because almost 500 were displaced during construction of the new structure.

Despite future expansion, PBI needed more parking to handle its current vehicle traffic.

"For several years, we had extremely busy park-and-ride lots," says Jerry Allen, deputy director of airports for Palm Beach County.

Facts and Figures


Long-term parking garage


Palm Beach International Airport


Palm Beach County Department of Airports


Walker Parking Consultants


CH2M Hill


James A. Cummings

Car-Count Technology:

CTR Systems

Footprint Size:

223,300 sq. ft.


3,430 spaces



Construction Time:

17 months to substantial completion

Parking Management:

USA Parking

The Need:

Prepare for upcoming master plan changes that will lead to significant expansion

On average, the existing, four-story parking structure was full three or four days per week. This forced customers to use the more remote park-and-ride lots instead, often adding up to half an hour to their travel time. The new parking structure was built adjacent to the four-story one.

The parking situation was so bad during holiday seasons, the airport frequently had to put out press releases to help guide travelers to the best solution, Allen recalls.

Last year, a pre-Thanksgiving press release indicated that the airport was expecting to serve roughly 173,000 passengers, so travelers should arrive more than the usual two hours before their flights to allow extra time for parking.

Less than 2,000 long-term parking spaces were available during construction - which spanned the holiday seasons.

These days, it's easy to find a space in the new parking structure; and the walk to the terminal through elevated walkways takes just five minutes, says Allen. The structure even contains car-count technology from CTR Systems that tracks the number of spaces available on each level and relays that information to travelers through a variable-message sign system.

The new garage's size and signs have led to smoother parking operations since it opened.

"We've done wonderfully," Allen reports.

That doesn't mean the park-and-ride lots will be eliminated any time soon. It has, however, been discussed.

"A certain segment (of passengers) likes those rates," he says.

The park-and-ride lots cost $6 per day vs. $12 per day in the new long-term lot, $16 per day in the short-term lot, or $30 per day in the premium lot just outside the baggage claim area.

Also in the Works

The new parking garage is the first of many improvements planned for Palm Beach International Airport. Design and construction costs for its Airport Improvement Project are estimated at $372 million, with completion expected in 2013. The Palm Beach County Department of Airports is currently in the midst of completing planning and environmental studies for the project.

Changes were spurred by a June 2004 Federal Aviation Administration study on the future aviation demand and operational capacity for the nation. The study identified Palm Beach International Airport as requiring additional capacity by 2013.

The project calls for a slew of changes, including three additional gates that are already under construction and runway modifications to change the current cross-wind commercial runway into a general aviation runway and vice versa. The changes require the current general aviation runway to be lengthened and the current commercial runway to be shortened.

Three more gates are expected to be built by 2018.

CH2M Hill, which served as construction manager on the parking garage, is also the lead planning consultant for the master plan improvements. According to senior project manager Phil Partenheimer, the overall goal is to increase the airport's capacity so it can handle increased demand.

Switching the use of the runways will have a huge impact on the number of flights the airport can handle on an hourly basis.

CH2M Hill's analysis shows that the current runway configuration allows 64 flights per hour - arrivals and departures of large and small aircraft - during typical conditions.

The suggested future configuration, which would yield two parallel commercial runways, has capacity for 116 aircraft operations per hour, including commercial and general aviation aircraft.

Design on the new runway is expected to start in 2009, with construction running through 2013 or 2014, says Dan Tompkins, a CH2M Hill project manager.

Construction of the runway will require two fixed-base operations to move from the south side of the airport to a position northwest of the runways in a former residential development called Golfview.

Other portions of the master plan include the addition of more concessions in the concourse and roadway improvements to increase curb-front capacity and allow direct access to Interstate 95.

The airport's current terminal building opened in 1988 with 25 gates and capacity for 24 more. Last year, PBI had nearly 200,000 operations, serving nearly 7 million passengers.

The master plan project also examines the roles of the other three airports in the Palm Beach County airport system - North County General Aviation Airport, Palm Beach County Park Airport and Glades Airport. PBI is the system's only commercial airport.

Team Members for System-Wide Airport Master Planning Study: CH2M Hill (Prime Consultant), Ricondo & Associates, Harris Miller & Hanson,Brown & Phillips, Southern Resources and Mapping of Miami, Quest Corporation of America, Lewis, Longman & Walker, Apple Designs, Hillers Electrical Engineering, ADA Engineering, Envirotrans Solutions


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