Charlotte Douglas International Airport’s new seven-story hourly parking deck opened Thursday, adding 4,000 new parking spaces to the airport in time for the Thanksgiving rush.
Airport officials said Thursday’s “soft opening” went well, with airport staff testing signs and equipment and extra officers on hand to direct travelers. By early afternoon, about 500 people had used the new deck, officials said, with two-thirds of them apparently using the deck to pick up or drop off someone and the other third parking there.
“Things are going well,” said interim Aviation Director Brent Cagle. There are still some “minor cosmetic things” to finish, he said, but having the deck open before Thanksgiving makes opening now worthwhile.
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Assistant Aviation Director Herb Judon said there were no major problems during the deck’s first day in operation.
“This was an opportunity for us to make sure the systems were in place,” he said. “We’re very happy.”
The $120 million parking deck has been under construction for more than a year. At 3.2 million square feet, the 7,000-space facility is twice the size of SouthPark mall.
The deck is free for the first hour, so people can pick up or drop off passengers more easily. After that, it costs $1 each half hour, with a $20 daily maximum.
Airport officials hope the new deck will cut down on the number of people circling while waiting for passengers or using the two cellphone waiting lots. Those have become increasingly crowded in the absence of hourly parking. Judon said it’s too early to tell whether the deck is cutting down on circling, but it will likely have an impact next week during Thanksgiving.
Besides the 4,000 new public parking spaces, the deck will feature 3,000 spaces for rental cars on the first three floors. Construction is ongoing in the rental car space, and the rental cars are expected to move in early next year.
The opening of the new deck doesn’t mean the airport’s construction-related disruptions are over. Next spring and summer, Charlotte Douglas plans to start a new roadway in front of the terminal and will begin tearing down the existing elevated road. Plans call for it to be expanded from three lanes to eight. The airport will then expand the terminal lobby – and one day hopes to move the Queen Charlotte statue there from its temporary home between the daily parking decks.
The road project and terminal expansion are expected to cost almost $160 million and last more than four years.