Burlington International plans “green” parking garage

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(Host) Business at Burlington International Airport continues to grow so much that there are many days when there’s no place to park.

So, Burlington voters will be asked next month to approve a 45 million dollar bond to expand the parking garage.

As VPR’s Ross Sneyd reports, this would be a garage with an environmental ethic.

(Airplane) Sound of jet taking off

(Sneyd) Commuter jets like this USAirways flight are common at the Burlington airport.

Nearly 760,000 people got on a flight here in the past year.

But before they boarded a plane, a lot of them had to circle the airport a few times in their cars to find a place to park.

That’s because for nine months last year, each of the 18-hundred-50 spaces in the garage was taken at some point during the day.

Brian Searles is airport director.

(Searles) “Although we do expect a slowdown in 2009 due to the current recession, the need for the parking has been demonstrated.”

(Sneyd) The airport wants to add two more floors to the existing garage. That would make room for as many as 1,400 new spaces.

A roof would be built over the fifth floor to help reduce snow maintenance.

But it also would become a platform for solar panels and small wind generators. Searles says that, along with other energy efficiency improvements, it could cut the airport’s $700,000 electricity bill in half.

Tom Torti of the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce says it would also make a strong statement about Burlington’s commitment to the environment.

(Torti) “Besides adding very needed parking, it’s going to reinforce that Vermont brand that we have of being green, of being forward thinking, of investing in renewable technologies.”

(Sneyd) The proposal will go to Burlington voters on Town Meeting Day. It will need two-thirds support to pass. Parking revenues would repay the bond.

Searles says the airport also needs more space in the terminal and has begun planning for that.

In the meantime, airlines and the airport are struggling with the slow economy.

(Airplane) Sound of prop engine starting

(Sneyd) Searles says in the near future, travelers will hear a lot more of these small airplanes starting up than they’ll see Boeings or Airbuses.

In five weeks, United Airlines will halt its “mainline” service. That’s a traditional jetliner operated by United itself. It will be replaced by service on regional jets operated by commuter companies. But that will mean 60 fewer seats on United planes out of Burlington.

(Searles) “We’re not happy about that and we’re hoping is that the level of business that United will continue to see here in the future will cause them to return more service through these contractors, so we’ll get back those 60 seats.”

(Sneyd) Searles is working with other airlines in the hope of adding service to such places as Boston and Florida.

For VPR News, I’m Ross Sneyd.

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