Lehigh Valley International Airport seeking partner to develop on-site upscale hotel


HANOVER TWP., Pa. | While the COVID-19 pandemic has crippled passenger traffic at Lehigh Valley International Airport, the authority that operates the airport is looking to take some advantage of the downturn.

The Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority board on Tuesday approved a roughly $1.74 million project to upgrade the airport’s short-term parking lot, nearly doubling the available spaces and installing vehicle charging stations. The project will also include upgraded ticketing equipment and renovations to the outgoing ticketing booth.

The board approved a $1.32 million contract with the low bidder, Barker and Barker Paving of Bethlehem, for the work to the parking lot and renovations to the parking booth. Board members also authorized the authority to spend up to $400,000 on ticketing equipment and vehicle charging stations.

The airport authority had included the project in this year’s 2020 capital budget schedule, a schedule that staff needed to re-evaluate given a precipitous drop in revenue thanks to the pandemic. And the authority opted to move forward with the parking lot project this year, in part, because of the pandemic.

Authority Executive Director Tom Stoudt said after the meeting that plans initially called for the project to be done in small phases as sections of the lot would need to be closed while still accommodating parking during the busy summer travel season. But near empty parking lots means a contractor could tackle the work in one phase, he said.

Ryan Meyer, the authority’s director of planning and programming, told the board that the winning bid came in more than 22 percent lower than the engineer’s estimate. Stoudt believes a combination of contractors eager for work and being able to do the work in one phase contributed to the favorable bid.

The project will include milling and paving, new lighting, improved drainage, conduits for future technology such as cameras and add about 100 spaces to the short-term lot along with 10 charging stations in response to customer input. The parking booth will be renovated with a new roof, paint and lighting.

Meyer said work on the parking lot will start at the end of July or beginning of August with a 60-day construction schedule. Stoudt said the authority wants to finish the project before the demand for air travel returns.

Upgrades in the ticketing equipment will include things like touchless ticketing and credit card payments with an eye toward other options like Apple and Google Pay, according to Stoudt. In the future, upgraded equipment could allow customers to do things like pay for their parking with their E-ZPass accounts, he said.

The parking lot and ticketing equipment upgrades will likely run on slightly different schedules with the new ticketing equipment coming on-line possibly in October.

The authority will pay for the parking lot upgrades through its capital budget with a matching $700,000 state grant. Stoudt said the project includes a $200,000 contingency, something the authority has started adding to projects to deal with unforeseen issues like sinkholes.

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