Hoping to ease congestion at Tampa International Airport, especially during the holiday season, new driving rules and parking options are in place:
Phase 1 of the $71 million, six-level Economy Parking Garage, providing 3,300 covered spaces, opened Nov. 8. As motorists enter the deck of the garage, a lighted sign informs how many spaces are available on each level, saving you time searching for a space. A secondary sign on each level reminds drivers whether that level is full or space remains.
Airport officials are not letting cars wait for passengers at the curbs in loading zones from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., 4:30 to 7 p.m., and 10 p.m. to midnight. Unless a passenger is at the curb with bags in hand, a car needs to keep moving.
The airport established a cell phone lot for drivers to wait for passengers to call them when they have their bags and are ready to go. The cell phone lot is located just south of the post office across from the Economy Parking Garage.
Drivers who want to meet passengers at a baggage claim or drop off passengers can park for the first hour for free in short-term and long-term lots.
At Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, drivers dropping off or picking up passengers may park for free in a short-term lot for less than 30 minutes. The offering is intended to reduce congestion at the curbs outside the airport.
However, drivers are allowed to stop curbside provided they remain with their vehicle.
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The changes are necessary, airport officials say, to make room for the light-rail system's airport station.
Both the 18,000 parking spaces in the airport's garages and economy lot, as well as 18,000 spaces in private lots surrounding the airport, are often full, especially on holiday weekends.
RDU spokeswoman Mindy Hamlin said it's a daily occurrence for airport police to move drivers who pull over to the side of one the airport's roads while awaiting phone calls.
The airport now prohibits motorists waiting beyond the time required to load passengers during three peak arrival periods: 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. until midnight.