Post-Pandemic Vision at Albany Int’l Includes More Parking, More Technology

Post-Pandemic Vision at Albany Int’l Includes More Parking, More Technology
Scott Berman
Published in: 

Sometimes a parking garage is more than just a place to park vehicles. A case in point is the five-story structure at Albany International Airport (ALB). The new garage and associated terminal upgrades completed last spring signal important changes unfolding at the eastern New York airport. Other changes include a new state-funded interstate exit that serves ALB.

Chief Executive Officer Philip Calderone notes that the $45 million spent building the garage and renovating the adjacent main terminal are investments in the region’s most valuable economic development asset. “We continue to provide a convenient and safe experience for the modern-day traveler, and look forward to coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic stronger than before,” says Calderone.

The new 1,050-space parking structure does more than provide much-needed covered parking near the main terminal. It also demonstrates management’s confidence in future growth and commitment to adding more technology to the airport. Calderone, a former city and county official who joined the airport team after the garage was under construction, explains that a key goal of building it and improving the terminal is to make ALB a “smart airport.” 


Project: New Parking Garage & Terminal Renovations

Location: Albany (NY) Int’l Airport

Size: 5 stories; 398,600 sq. ft.

New Parking Spaces: 1,050 (bringing total to 7,000) 

Cost: $45 million

Funding: $22.1 million award from Upstate Airport Economic Development & Revitalization Competition; $22.9 million from airport

2019 Parking Revenue: $6.2 million

Project Construction: Oct. 2018-April 2020

Prime Designer/Engineer of Record: CHA Consulting

Architectural & Structural Sub-consultant (Pedestrian Bridge): Bergman Associates

Architectural & Structural Sub-consultant (Garage): Desman Inc.

Construction Management: Turner Construction Co.

Prime Contractors: Unistress Corp.; LaChase Construction    

Parking & Revenue Control System: Amano McGann; Park Assist

Equipment Supplier/Coordination: 
Access Technology Integration

Digital Wayfinding: Park Assist

Project Scope Included: Relocating terminal road; constructing vehicle bridge & pedestrian bridge

The new parking structure, which includes ticketless entry and automated space detection, opened in June 2020 while traffic was very light due to the pandemic. With volume still down earlier this year, about 150 vehicles are parking daily for $10 per day. In contrast, almost 643,000 vehicles parked at the airport in 2019, for a daily average of about 1,760. Officials estimate that the airport logged 600,000 total enplanements in 2020—vs.1.5 million in 2019. ALB’s seven airlines have operated throughout the pandemic.

Recent traffic trends notwithstanding, a shortage of parking spaces during peak travel times had been an issue at ALB for years. The financial means to remedy the situation came in 2018, when the airport won a $22.1 million award from the Upstate Airport Economic Development and Revitalization Competition, led by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. ALB funded the rest of the $45 million project.

Ready, Set, Go!

The state money was a boon. However, it came with a stipulation: The garage had to be substantially completed by March 31, 2020, only 18 months after the awards were announced—a “very ambitious timeline,” as Calderone puts it.

To meet the deadline, ALB’s leadership assembled and worked closely with a project team that included CHA Consulting as prime designer/engineer of record and Turner Construction Company as construction manager. CHA brought in Bergmann Associates and Desman Inc. as architectural and structural sub-consultants. The team that developed the parking access and revenue control system consisted of Amano McGann and Park Assist, with Access Technology Integration supplying equipment and coordinating with CHA Consulting and the airport.

Together, the companies created a five-level, 398,600-square-foot precast concrete structure with 200 parking spaces on each level, and a heated and enclosed pedestrian bridge that links the new facility to the main terminal. Customers no longer need to pull paper tickets when they arrive, and those who forget where they park can enter all or part of their license plate numbers into a kiosk that uses Find My Car software from Park Assist. 

Building the new garage and updating/expanding the terminal were ALB’s largest and most complex projects in 25 years. For example, the construction site for the new garage—an existing 200-space surface lot—was sandwiched between the airport terminal road and a security identification display area. Working in the tight and busy area required precision logistics and careful scheduling because all construction occurred while the airport operated as usual. Moreover, technicians had to relocate a tangle of underground utilities and drive 484 structural beams into the ground to create the building’s foundation.

Other significant project elements included repositioning a terminal road, constructing a vehicle bridge that passes over the road and enters the garage’s third level, and building the pedestrian bridge, which is topped with a 4-kilowatt solar array. 

During the peak of construction, about 45 workers were on site. The airport and contractors required all crewmembers to follow COVID protocols for masks and social distancing.

Garage Features

Aesthetically, the new building blends historic references with contemporary features. For example, the predominantly concrete exterior includes sections of corner and water table brick that allude to the region’s celebrated Shaker architecture. Rich LaRose, project manager for CHA Consulting, notes that this historic reference is juxtaposed with ribbons of color-changing LED lighting on each level to create a bright, appealing façade. Inside the pedestrian bridge, the lights take a circular form. Recently, ALB programmed the lights to create a glowing blue display as a tribute to healthcare professionals working throughout the pandemic.

The LED system also hints at the modern conveniences and automation found within the garage, adds Jeremy Martelle, an associate vice president at CHA Consulting. First, the parking access and revenue control system has automated space detection, real-time monitoring, electronic signage and license plate readers to facilitate ticketless entry and help guide customers to available spaces. Other new enhancements: The system accepts EZ Pass, credit card or smartphone payments, and the building uses motion detection and daylight harvesting to save energy while providing appropriate lighting.

Smart technology in the garage dovetails with similar initiatives inside the terminal, prompting some partners to refer to ALB as a “burgeoning digital incubator.”  During recent renovations, officials took the opportunity to boost internet connectivity. And in November 2020, ALB became the first airport in the world to use a new app from GE Aviation that provides travelers with real-time information about cleaning cycles within the terminal. Passengers using the app can scan barcode stickers with their mobile devices to receive instant updates about when a restaurant, restroom or other specific area or object was most recently cleaned. Not surprisingly, ALB has received inquiries about its three-month trial of the app from airports around the world.

Also in the works: The airport has contracted CHA to help develop a new master plan that is scheduled to be unveiled in 2022.

Between recent terminal renovations, the new garage and future master plan projects, Calderone and his colleagues are clearly focused on what lies ahead. “In the post-pandemic world, ALB International has an exciting future for growth and development,” he remarks.

When passengers return en masse, they’ll automatically be guided to open parking spots and remain protected from inclement weather during their short trek to the nearby terminal. Once inside, they’ll find new post-checkpoint concessions, updated restrooms, faster internet service and several other improvements ALB made while they were away.

Words to the Wise

Key stakeholders in the recent construction of a five-story parking garage at Albany International Airport (ALB) came away from the project with a few reflections to share with their industry counterparts.

Philip Calderone, ALB’s chief executive officer, stresses the importance of collaboration throughout the entire project. He feels that it’s important for airport management to be readily on hand and participate as integrally involved team members to help address real-time budgeting decisions, construction protocols, weather delays and other everyday issues. At ALB, the project team met at least once a week. 

Jeremy Martelle, an associate vice president with CHA Consulting, notes that master planning is a huge component to securing FAA authorizations and funding. “Having that vision is probably the first thing to focus on,” says Martelle.

Rich LaRose, a project manager with CHA Consulting, says that airports should expect to spend $25,000 to $30,000 per parking space when building a new garage. While Martelle acknowledges some airport officials may be deterred by the cost, he encourages them to consider their long-term needs. “Don’t undercut yourself when developing a project like this,” he advises. “You can always scale it back to fit budgetary or funding constraints.”

Martelle also cautions airports against underestimating future passenger demand.



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