During Wednesday’s monthly meeting at McGhee Tyson Airport, the Metropolitan Knoxville Airport Authority approved consultation for a parking expansion and a technological upgrade for current parking lots.

Bill Barley and Kyle Keppner from Walker Consultants gave a presentation to board members about the need for additional parking as demand is projected to increase. According to their projections from airport data, the airport could be short of customer parking demands by 2023 or 2024.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted travel in 2020, the two used numbers from 2019 to project growth. Barley added that the airport had parking shortages in 2019, before the pandemic limited travel.

Barley said that the projected growth rate for the airport is high because of the area’s continuing population growth and the strength of the economy.

Since the airport is limited in its ability to acquire additional land for parking, the authority is exploring the construction of a new garage near the airport terminals.

Keppner presented data that showed what customers like, which pointed toward long-term parking and parking close to terminals. He said parking demand was most centered on location, which applied to multiple airports he had assisted with parking additions, not just McGhee Tyson.

The proposed garage would bring an additional 1,700 spaces to the airport’s current 4,000. They also estimated that a garage project would take four years to complete through the planning, design and construction phases.

Keppner additionally presented a slideshow on automated parking assistance, which count the number of open spots in a lot. One board member said that people ask him often why the airport doesn’t have the parking assistance technology. Currently, the number of open spots is tallied online, but this technology would insert counters physically into the lots or garages for people to see as they park.

One of the methods includes cameras for every 3-5 parking spots that light up green or red if spots are open or taken. The cameras also allow extra security and a “find-my-car” feature. People would also be able to type in their license plate numbers on a kiosk that would show them where their car is located.

One of the board members asked Keppner if he had talked Walmart into getting one, and the room returned a soft laughter.

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