Major Rental Car Facility Proposed for Logan International

The Massachusetts Port Authority is reviving plans for a consolidated rental car garage at Logan International Airport, a project that officials took off the drawing board after the September 2001 terrorist attacks decimated the travel business.

Now that air travel -- and the demand for rental cars -- has returned to pre-2001 levels, Massport is revisiting the idea, which it says would be a convenience to travelers by putting as many as eight different rental car agencies in one building. Currently, six rental agencies operate separate offices a short distance from Logan's terminals while two others have offices as far as a mile away.

Massport officials also said the rental car garage would reduce emissions from multiple shuttle vehicles and could even act as a buffer between the East Boston neighborhood and the airport's noise and jet fuel fumes.

But the project would face several hurdles, including how to pay for construction costs likely to climb above $100 million, and the difficulty of designing and building a large facility on the landlocked airport property.

"The challenge is to design something that we can afford to build," said Massport spokeswoman Danny Levy.

Other recent airport rental car projects carried heavy price tags. Baltimore/Washington International Airport's rental car terminal, opened in 2003, cost $134.8 million. Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Florida opened a rental car garage this year after spending $247 million over six years.

Steve Belleme, a spokesman for the Fort Lauderdale airport, said it needed to move all of its rental car agencies into one facility so the airport would have room to expand. The building also eliminated the need for multiple rental car shuttles making hundreds of trips around the airport daily, he said.

Massport hopes to accomplish much of the same by building its car rental terminal at the Southwest Service Area, a 48-acre, L-shaped parcel bordered by Harborside Drive, Maverick Street, the Embassy Suites Hotel and the Boston Harborwalk in East Boston.

The space is occupied by the Hertz, Avis, Dollar, Alamo, Budget, and National car rental agencies. Each has a separate building and parking lot on Massport property. Logan's taxi, bus, and limousine pools, and a Gate Gourmet food preparation facility also sit on the space.

Massport's Levy said several other rental companies, including Enterprise and Thrifty, have also expressed interest in moving into a consolidated terminal.

An Enterprise spokeswoman said its airport locations in Baltimore and Houston are in consolidated rental car garages.

But in Boston, the airport location is about mile away, on McClellan Highway in East Boston, so customers face a relatively long shuttle ride before getting to their cars.

Having a central terminal "definitely would provide better customer service for our customers because they wouldn't have to go through the local neighborhood," said Bill Smith, Enterprise's regional vice president.