Sea-Tac Airport Gets $850,000 for Consolidated Car Rental Project

The Port of Seattle Commission recently voted to give Sea-Tac Airport's $413 million rental car facility project another infusion of cash in order to keep the project on track to begin construction in June for an anticipated spring 2011 opening the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports.

Port staff has been pressing to get the project construction started during the dry season this year but was stymied by the port's five-member board of elected overseers until recently.

That was when they lifted their moratorium on funding new capital projects, which was meant to compel the port staffers to demonstrate their seriousness in responding to a December state audit that blasted the port construction management's wastefulness and lack of internal controls.

Now satisfied of the staff's progress, the commission authorized another $850,000 for the project's design, for which $30 million has been authorized, and upped the total authorized for its construction contract with Turner Construction Co. to $7.1 million from the $3 million previously cleared.

In May, port staffers will come back to ask for the rest of the funding for the planned building which has been in the works for more than 10 years and has space for 5,400 rental cars.

Last fall, as the facility's design evolved to its 90 percent completion mark in December, its construction cost skyrocketed more than $100 million from the port staff's previous $306 million estimate, which already was called unprecedented by some in the rental car industry.

Representatives of the largest rental car companies reconvened with port staff to study whether it still made economic sense to consolidate their operations into one multistory building a 10- to 15-minute bus ride away from Sea-Tac Airport.

They decided that it did -- and then the state's damning performance audit of the port's construction management was released, and the project -- $406 million of whose cost will be paid by charges on rental car customers that already have begun -- was tabled again.

Two months passed before the commission felt ready to begin releasing cash into the hands of the port staffers, whom the audit accused of cozying up to contractors and misleading the commissioners elected by the public to act as stewards for the public agency.

The staff estimated that the 2.1 million-square-foot building will cut rental car-related traffic 20 percent and free up 3,200 parking spaces on the parking garage floors where the rental companies now park, wash and fuel their cars.

According to the Seattle P-I, the port commission is going to re-examine whether the port should own and operate the compressed-natural-gas-fueled buses that will shuttle passengers back and forth between the airport and the planned rental car garage, where the rental companies will transfer their fleet maintenance and refueling and where kiosks will be installed for flight check-in.

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