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Discussing a potential parking structure at FAR, the city commission and airport authority reach no conclusions



Fargo, North Dakota – The Municipal Airport Authority (MAA) and members of the Fargo City Commission met on Monday to discuss the potential addition of a parking garage in order to accommodate the additional traffic the larger airport will generate. The discussion took place as Fargo’s Hector International Airport prepared to break ground as early as this fall on a terminal expansion that will more than double its size.

The four-level building would fill the space that is currently short-term parking in front of the airport’s main entrance, according to MAA Board Chair John Cosgriff. The airport would gain 735 parking places thanks to the new ramp. 70% of the airport’s surface parking would still be available, according to Cosgriff, when the ramp is built, albeit the ramp might be extended from the south if there is more demand.

According to a consultancy firm hired by the MAA, the additional ramp’s development might result in a five-year boost in parking revenue from $4 million to $8 million. Those projections were predicated on daily ramp rates of $25 and a 60% occupancy rate. According to Cosgriff, the consultants discovered that a sizable portion of both business and leisure passengers were willing to pay more for ramp parking.

Paula Ekman, a member of the MAA board, stated that specialists had informed the MAA that if the airport expansion takes forward without extra parking, there will be a shortage of 500 parking spaces. Alternatives like a shuttle, according to her, have been proposed, but they would also call for the building of shelters and fail to solve many of the problems caused by the cold weather that affect tourists. Since many airport users are from cities and towns that are far away, Ekman claimed that taxis and Ubers are not a good alternative for them.

The ramp’s financing will be a major issue as construction moves further. In order to help pay for the ramp’s construction, the MAA is thinking of requesting an additional mill levy in the city’s 2024 budget, but at least two of the commissioners present at the meeting on Monday voiced concerns about raising airport revenue. The city budget now allots the airport two mills, with a maximum of four.

When asked about the mill, Commissioner Dave Piepkorn replied, “I think we should look at alternative options. The parking ramp is definitely a nice thing, but the mill might be the last remaining choice, so just have our financial department look at other possibilities.

Arlette Preston, a commissioner, also expressed hesitation about giving the airport more money from the city to build the ramp.

According to Cosgriff, the parking garage might become self-sufficient in five years, meaning that the new mill may only be required temporarily. According to him, rental vehicle firms have also shown interest in using some of the ramp’s area, maybe a whole level.

The informational meeting on Monday did not result in any decisions. Cosgriff said that he anticipates continuous conversations about the parking ramp between the MAA and the city over the ensuing months.

Although the MAA has not yet chosen an architect for the parking project, executive director Shawn Dobberstein said that choice might be made as soon as this week. While the ramp’s construction may begin as early as April or May 2024, he said it’s unclear whether the extension and the ramp will be built at the same time. According to him, the airport would already be significantly disrupted by the extension project alone, therefore the MAA board will need to determine the best time to build the ramp taking that into consideration.