Sullivan County

Airport plans to eliminate metered parking

BLOUNTVILLE, Tenn. - If you're flying in or out of the Tri-Cities Regional Airport next month, you may encounter some construction crews.

The airport says it'll be starting phase one of a two-part project that will eliminate the metered parking spaces outside the terminal.

"We just need to have more room in front of the terminal," said Melissa Thomas, the airport's spokesperson.

She told us the overall goal of the project to improve the front of the facility. The first phase starts after the March race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

"We'll be doing some roadwork in front of the airport to mill the pavement and repave," said Thomas.

She told us the parking entrance will also be included in the first stage of construction.

"Those two gates and the signage there, I think that's somewhat confusing so they'll be doing some work to that," she said.

Phase two will follow, and will focus on widening the road in front of the terminal. A large part of doing that will include removing the metered spaces.

"Those metered spaces will need to go away," said Thomas. "We're just so restricted in space, something has to give."

We're told they'll also widen the sidewalks and change the retaining walls.

"We'll be removing the retaining wall, making that a much nicer, more attractive area," said Thomas.

In addition, they plan to make the ramps more accessible, she told us.

Thomas said this second project will add up to a little over $2 million. We're told it's being paid for by state and federal grants, along with the airport's general funds.

Traveler Ron Wade told us he doesn't think it's worth the cost.

"I don't think we're that busy out of the Tri-Cities," said Wade.

Wade's wife flies out of the airport almost every week and he waits for her in the metered parking spaces.

"This is going to make it more difficult for the people who come in and pick up frequent fliers," he said.

Thomas told us  the extra space will make the area safer.

"People shop for a space," she said. "They'll get all the way to the end, go 'whoops, there aren't any spaces but there was one back there' and they'll back up."

Thomas told us they hope eliminating the spots will prevent accidents.

The second phase of the project should start sometime next year, according to Thomas.

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