Tweed-New Haven Airport "Untangles the Pretzel" with New Roads & Parking

Robert Nordstrom
Published in: 

Tweed-New Haven Airport (HVN) recently fixed a host of landside traffic problems by designing and rebuilding its roadways, parking lots and taxi pick-up area. The nearly $1.5 million project untangled what Executive Director Tim Larson describes as a "pretzel-like, almost figure eight, configuration" that had plagued the Connecticut facility for years. 

The new system is a night-and-day improvement, he notes. "We are realizing significantly more revenue from our parking. And from a maintenance, environmental and customer service perspective, everything is easier and more functional," details Larson. 

Project: New Parking, Roadways & Taxi Area
Location: Tweed-New Haven (CT) Airport
Airport Manager: AvPorts
Project Cost: $1,463,429 
Funding: Connecticut Dept. of Economic & Community Development ($919,215); FAA ($489, 793); state ($40,816); local ($13,605) 
New Parking Lot: 75,000 sq. ft. 
Capacity: 87 spaces
Parking Cost: $10/day; $2/hour; 15 min. free for pick-ups & drop-offs
Design & Engineering: Dewberry Engineering
General Contractor: Waters Construction
Parking Equipment: Data Park
Project Design: 2012
Construction: Oct. 2013 - Nov. 2014   
Of Note: Confusing pretzel-like roadway & parking configuration was demolished & rebuilt
Key Benefits: Improved customer convenience & satisfaction; increased parking revenues

In the past, vehicles entering and exiting HVN were confronted with confusing traffic patterns when attempting to drop off passengers or park, Larson explains. Travelers entering the airport for the first time often had difficulty finding their way through the non-intuitive maze. They could see the parking lot, but getting into it was another matter. Once in, they were confronted with three different parking areas with three different sets of entrances and exits. Getting out was yet another challenge, he adds, because the entrance and exit roads crossed each other, creating dangerous traffic hazards.

HVN's previous landside configuration was constructed to accommodate an influx of travelers when Yale University hosted the 1995 International Special Olympics; and it had clearly outlived its utility.  

"The old system was a nightmare," Larson reflects, citing traffic flow and maintenance as two major shortcomings. 

An unreliable parking collections system was another ongoing issue. "(It) was old, outdated and constantly breaking down; and we lost a lot of parking revenue," he relates, explaining that the airport would accommodate customers by allowing them to park for free when equipment was inoperable. Other customers would simply drive over the curb without paying.

"Parking revenue is a major source of income for the airport and is critical to our operations," stresses Larson. 

Data from AvPorts, the firm that manages the airport, indicates HVN's parking revenues have increased at least 25% since the new system was put in place last fall.  

Out with the Old, In with the New

During the project's 2012 design phase, airport authorities concluded that the system that worked in 1995 was no longer suitable, and committed to comprehensive reconstruction.

Planners divided the project into three phases: parking lot, primary roadway and taxi staging area/administrative roadway.

Demolition work for the new parking lot began in September 2013. Because the lot sits approximately 12 feet above sea level, adding a new drainage system was an important part of reconstruction. Previously, hard rainfalls created serious ponding issues. Parking lot runoff flows into catch basins and eventually makes its way into a channel that runs through the airport and out to the Atlantic Ocean. Because tidal fluctuations affected the channel water, water sometimes backed up through the catch basin system and into the parking lot. Dewberry Engineering mitigated the situation by installing two tidal gates.

A swale around the perimeter of the new lot further aids drainage and adds aesthetic appeal, as it is filled with decorative rock and salt-resistant vegetation. The new swale also discourages customers from attempting to jump the curb without paying, adds Tom Sprong, Dewberry's resident engineer.

New conduit and wiring were run between the parking lot and terminal to allow travelers to pay for parking at terminals inside the airport before proceeding to their cars. HVN also updated its parking gates and ticket readers.

With new infrastructure in place, Waters Construction laid 3 inches of fresh asphalt over a crushed stone base to create a new 75,000-square-foot parking area. The redesigned lot includes 87 spaces and a single entrance/exit set to simplify matters for motorists. A raised and lighted concrete walkway that runs through the center of the lot leads customers to and from the terminal. 

The airport's previous three-tier pay scale was consolidated into a $10 per day/$2 per hour scale, with 15 minutes of free parking for pick-ups, drop-offs and run-ins.

With the parking lot completed, HVN reconstructed the roadway leading into and out of the airport with a more intuitive circular drive configuration. Vehicles entering the airport now have two choices: proceed directly to parking, or drop off passenger at the terminal. They then drive counterclockwise along the perimeter roadway to the north side of the lot to park or continue on to exit.

"We removed the confusing and sometimes dangerous entrance/exit pretzel," Sprong relates. "The pavement was in bad shape, with lots of potholes and disintegration. The old roadway was demolished and new crushed stone base and asphalt were laid." 

The 1,800-foot-long, 20-foot-wide road widens to 36 feet and three lanes at the terminal drop-off areas. "Vehicles follow the perimeter circulation road around the outside of the parking lot. It's much more intuitive," says Sprong.

In the taxi waiting area, designers had a telephone pole and landscaping island removed to open up the area at the rear of the terminal. Crews also demolished and rebuilt the old sidewalk and pavement areas, providing a taxi lane, drop-off area and multiple lanes for traffic circulation.  

All's Well That Ends Well

Although HVN's parking and roadway reconstruction process was rife with frustrating weather delays and took longer than initially projected, airport officials are pleased with the results. 

"Piecing everything together was quite a trick," reflects Larson. "But it's literally like night and day. People love coming here now, because it's so much more convenient. The feedback has been very positive."

Diane Jackson, AvPorts' HVN manager, also reports an uptick in customer satisfaction: "People come here expecting convenience and quality service, and now they can get it. They are no longer confused about where they are supposed to be going."  



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