$400 Million SeaTac Rental Car Facility Appears Back On Track

One of the more prominent casualties of the credit crunch had been the $400 million rental car facility at Sea-Tac airport. The project was suspended in December 2008. As a result of the frozen credit markets the Port of Seattle found it could not sell the long-term bonds it needed to finance the project. The Port Commission felt continuing the project without financing in place would put them at risk and therefore suspended most of the work.

It appears that construction on the facility can be placed back on track thanks to legislation that has passed in the House and is now under consideration in the State Senate. The legislation SHB 2214 gives the Port the authority to loan other money it has available to the car facility project and receive interest. These dollars would be used as an additional source of funding while bonds sell or even as a supplement in the short term to the sale of bonds. The bonds are backed by Customer Facility Charges paid by rental car customers.

The Port has $100 million available in its Airport Development Fund to loan to the project. The Airport Development Fund includes earnings from non-airline revenue such as parking garage receipts concession sales and advertising.

At a March 26th hearing before the Senate Transportation Committee Craig Holt Project Executive for Turner Construction Company the General Contractor and Construction Manager for the project and Tom Balbo Vice President for Ferguson Construction a subcontractor on the project testified in support of the bill which would create immediate jobs. The bill has since been passed out of Committee.

Prior to the suspension the project was just ramping up and hitting full stride Holt told the committee. At that time there were over 140 workers on site and we were moving quickly toward 200 with an anticipated peak of around 500 on site. In addition there could be as many as 3000 off-site support personnel affected by restart of the project not to mention the local businesses not directly part of the project that are affected by the work force.

Holt also noted that for the $227 million Turner contract almost all of the work is subcontracted to firms from Washington State and 13 percent ($22 million) is subcontracted to disadvantaged or emerging businesses. Many of these same businesses face potential failure if this project does not go forward now that many other opportunities have gone away Holt said.

The project is ready for immediate reactivation due to the ongoing work required to protect the environment and public safety during suspension. Upon restart we can begin rapid ramp up and be back to December levels within a few weeks Holt said. We can be running hard again with a few phone calls. Subcontractors and suppliers are very cooperative and anxious to help the project move forward.

The 2.1 million-square-foot garage is being built on 23 acres bordered by state Routes 99 and 518 and South 160th Street and will house 10 of the airports largest rental car companies whose departure from the parking garage would free up 3200 parking spaces.