Build ramp at Fargo airport
Disappointment has to be the reaction to the Fargo Municipal Airport Authority decision to sideline plans for a parking garage at Hector International Airport in north Fargo. It should be a priority.
The airport continues to count record-setting passenger use. Hector is the busiest airport in the region and, more importantly, is the front door for visitors who travel by air. It’s a first-impression facility that is first class in every way but one: the tundra-like parking facilities.
Enclosed parking ramps are not unique to big-city airports. Many regional airports that are similar to Hector feature multistory ramps, especially in Northern states. The airport at Burlington, Vt., for example, offers travelers a sprawling multilevel garage that is connected to the terminal by a heated walkway. The regional airport at Manchester, N.H., also has extensive indoor parking garages. Both airports are in states where winter can be severe. Their ramps have been on site for many years.
But even the weather of northern New England is nothing like travelers in and out of Fargo are likely to experience in a Northern Plains winter. Yet, we expect airport patrons to park their vehicles and leave them for who knows how long in intense cold and drifting snow; and ask them to trek to and from the terminal, often tugging luggage, in the worst weather conditions in the nation. It’s not about how “tough” we are. It’s about the welcoming aspects — the expected amenities — of an exceedingly well-run regional airport that serves travelers from all over the world.
Parking ramps are expensive — certainly far more expensive than expanding outdoor parking lots. But progressive Fargo has seldom hesitated to make expensive investments in public facilities, most of which have paid off. And airport users would expect to pay more for parking in an enclosed ramp.
The airport authority is considering a ramp reserve fund to eventually finance a project. Meanwhile, the authority plans to build another parking lot, thus guaranteeing the tundra trek will be even longer. Shuttle service might be helpful in bad weather — but in Fargo’s extreme winter weather? Maybe dog sleds would be better ... kind of a touristy thing. “Hey,” says the traveler, “been to Fargo lately? They haul you from the terminal to the parking lot by dog sleds. Really, dog sleds. Cool.”
Cool. Now there’s an understatement.