The Alaska Department of Transportation said managing parking at Sitka Airport “has become an increasing challenge” for its crew. The department plans to advertise this month “to find a professional parking management company” to manage the parking lot in front of the terminal building.
The effort “will be the first of several planned to address similar parking issues throughout the state’s airport system,” according to the department’s announcement last month.
“The Sitka Rocky Gutierrez Airport Parking Request for Proposals is a pilot program for smaller airports in the department,” Sam Dapcevich, a department spokesman, said Feb. 24. “Once it is implemented there, the department will begin rolling it out to other airports.”
Dapcevich said “no changes are in the works for Wrangell Airport at this time”, but confirmed changes to the airport’s free parking lot across from the Wrangell terminal may come in the future.
In addition to Sitka, Wrangell, and Petersburg, the department operates airports in Gustavus, Haines, Hoonah, Skagway, Yakutat, and several smaller southeast communities, in addition to airports in Alaska.
The Juneau and Ketchikan airports are managed by the borough of each community and parking at the airport is paid.
The tender for a private operator to manage the Sitka parking lot will be launched in early March. The department said it “expects a company to handle the lot by early April.” The operator will set and collect the fees.
St. Petersburg’s parking rate went from free to $7 a day in December after the state leased the frequently used state-owned plot to a private operator – at the company’s request for more space for his own business.
The Wrangell parking lot is on state land with no private participation or fees.
In an interview with the Sitka Sentinel late last month, Dapcevich said the state decided to outsource lot management to Sitka because the department “doesn’t have the resources to handle parking.” He added: “We have had discussions with the city. They determined they didn’t have the bandwidth to handle it either. So we’re going to… hire a parking management company, and some of the issues that people have brought to our attention should be fixed.
One of the complaints is the lack of sufficient long-term parking, he said.
“We have 68 spaces in the seven-day parking zone and they are usually quite full,” Dapcevich told the Sitka newspaper. “By having a company there that can handle it, they should be able to adapt and be more flexible than us. If they decide they can make more use of the short-term long-term parking area term, they might be able to do that. Plus, they might last longer than the seven-day limit we have in place. If people wanted to pay to keep their car longer, they would have that option.”
“The proposal is a long time coming,” Sitka Mayor Steven Eisenbeisz said. “We have been working with the state on an airport parking plan for some time. … We tried to put this off for a long time, so that we didn’t have to charge for parking at the airport. But at this point, I believe it’s unavoidable. He added: “Hopefully the rates will stay reasonable.”
Dapcevich hopes the move will reduce the number of cars left or abandoned in Sitka’s lot for long periods of time.
“An ideal situation would be that we don’t have any abandoned cars because someone is there and our maintenance and operations staff wouldn’t have to try to find people and then end up if you can’t. find themselves in needing to involve a towing company and then following up with people so they can get their car back,” he said. “We’d rather they focus on their usual responsibilities, like keeping the trail clear and keeping the Sitka roads clear.”