Parking breeds more parking space at Dane County Airport

The work never seems to stop at Dane County Regional Airport.

"One of the executives over there mentioned last week how he's worked at the airport for 17 years, and that it seems like there hasn't been a year there yet that hasn't involved some kind of construction project," said Jason Jones.

Jones works for J.H. Findorff & Son Inc., Madison, and is the project manager on a $24 million project to build a 1,240-space parking ramp, 2,000-square-foot administration building and new exit plaza.

The new parking garage will go up next to the airport's 1,600-space ramp. Work also will include resurfacing of the existing surface-level parking area.

"The biggest challenge is going to be maintaining traffic coordination through all of this," Jones said. "We have to maintain accessibility throughout all of this. I'm sure it'll work out fine, though. One way or another, it always does. "

The project comes hot on the heels of a $32.9 million renovation to the airport's terminal, and airport spokesperson Sharyn Wisniewski said that despite some static and recently decreased travel numbers, the airport's operating revenues are up and providing all the money necessary to continue these upgrade projects.

"The majority of our operating revenues come from parking and the expanded concessions that came out of the terminal renovation," she said. "We offer competitive parking rates, so people don't mind parking here. That success is what's allowing all this to happen. "

Rates for daily parking are between $6 and $9, depending on where the traveler parks. In the hourly area, parking is free for the first 15 minutes, $1 for up to a half-hour, then $2 for an hour.

The amount of work going into the airport is not an indication of trying to compete with some other nearby high-profile locations, though.

"This is a small hub airport," Wisniewski said. "That's the market we're in, and we're fine with that.

"Milwaukee and Chicago are entirely different markets, and I don't think we're even thinking of operating or competing at that level. We just want to excel at the level we're at. "

Airlines are taking notice, too.

Non-stop flights to Dallas and New York have been added to Dane County's itineraries recently, and Wisniewski said the airport is in constant communication with airlines about adding more destinations.

"The airport brings a lot to Dane County and southern Wisconsin's economy," Wisniewski said. "Whatever we can do to make it convenient and easy to use for people in the area, we want to do it. "

Jones said the entire project is scheduled to wrap in October 2008 and that the airport is seeking LEED certification on the project. Only recyclable materials and non-volatile compounds in the materials will be used in the project.

"[The certification] certainly would be good advertising for the airport," he said.

Anything that can give the airport another leg-up would help, said Wisniewski.

"The state of the airline industry today makes it a very competitive business, and we'll do what we can to make this airport well-recognized," she said.