San Luis Obispo's airport is onboard for a $102 million facelift, with plans for a new three-story passenger terminal including the county's first up-and-down escalator as well as a new $15 million parking structure to accommodate growing use.
"This is not a question of 'build it and they will come.' They are already here," stated a staff report submitted to the county Board of Supervisors, which noted that 355,000 air travelers used the airport last year.
Although the Federal Aviation Administration and airline ticket surcharges will cover much of the cost of the new terminal building and extended runways, the proposed parking structure would be paid for by $10 million from the SLO County general fund and $5 million in airport revenues. County supervisors are considering increasing the cost of parking a car at the airport to $10 or $15 a day to raise the money to reimburse the general fund.
"There's an upper limit to what the market will bear for parking," county Auditor-Controller Jere Sibbach warned the supervisors on May 8. Someone could open up a nearby park-and-ride lot, Sibbach said, and a planned 164-room airport hotel could also provide parking competition.
The county would be required to pay any shortfall in annual debt service costs if airport revenues or federal funding aren't enough, according to the staff report.
Sibbach asked the Board of Supervisors to consider the funding request for an airport parking building in context with other major capital projects, such as a new jail and new overpasses.
Supervisors voted unanimously with Bruce Gibson abstaining due to a potential conflict of interest to defer any decision until May 29, when other county funding needs will be discussed.