OKC capital spending plan studied

Thursday, September 27, 2012

by Michael Kimball

The Oklahoman

The Oklahoma City Council is considering a plan to spend $327 million over the next five years on capital improvements for city airports, parking infrastructure and transit. But the most expensive item on the list is dependent on future demand.  

The council heard presentations Tuesday from the Airports Department and Central Oklahoma Transportation and Parking Authority as part of its development of an updated five-year, citywide capital improvement plan. The state requires the city to update the plan every two years, and it will take effect later this fall, pending council approval.  

About $205 million of the $260 million airports spending plan is for Will Rogers World Airport, and $85 million of it is for the potential third phase of a terminal expansion project. The expansion is based on need, which at this point isn’t there. 

“We still have some vacant gates in our existing concourse due to the airline mergers that have happened,” city Airports Director Mark Kranenburg said. “But we want to be far enough ahead of this that we can go out and design this and be ready when the demand hits for (more) air service.”   

With the plan in place, the airport would be able to expand if there’s demand for more commercial flights in coming years, as expected.   

Other plans for spending at Will Rogers, which includes significant federal funding along with city funds, include runway and taxiway improvements, and $26 million on a new checked baggage inspection system.   

Oklahoma City’s smaller airports, Clarence E. Page and Wiley Post, have about $24 million in combined planned improvements. The Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center, a Federal Aviation Administration office on the Will Rogers grounds, has $31 million in planned improvements.

The bulk of the parking and transit authority’s $67 million planned improvements budget goes to parking facilities. About $39 million is planned for parking improvements, most notably a 750-space garage south of City Hall.  

The city also plans to continue spending on technological upgrades in garages, and build technology into the new garages, said the authority’s director, Rick Cain.   

“In all of our garages now, we’re trying to put in signage to help you know ahead of time so as you approach a floor, you’ll know whether there are spaces available,” Cain said.  

The authority, which also receives a hefty federal subsidy, plans to spend about $17 million on new buses and other vehicles. Technological upgrades to the transit system include a bus location finder that can be used with smartphones.  

“The number one question we get asked is, ‘When’s my bus going to be here?’ ” Cain said.