Growth in Reno, Nev., can be felt at its overworked airport, where travelers frequently encounter tight parking and long ticketing lines.
A multi-year expansion program announced in early April by the Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority aims to address these growing pains through new ticketing, parking and car rental facilities; improved roadway access; and, eventually, new concourses.
The MoreRNO initiative, with a potential total price tag of at least $600 million, brings together projects already scheduled for construction and others, like the concourses, that are in earlier stages of planning. It also tweaks some elements from the last update of its master plan in 2016, such as adding a dedicated rideshare area and EV chargers.
“The master plan needs to keep up with technology,” says airport authority board member Art Sperber, also a senior project manager with a Nevada-based transportation engineering firm.
The first phase is a ticketing area expansion that gets underway this year at an estimated cost of $20 million to $30 million. Once completed, the expansion will help passenger flow in the often-packed ticketing area and add restrooms and touchless travel technology. RS&H are the architects and McCarthy Building Cos. will provide construction management for this phase.
Next spring, the road that fronts ticketing and passenger dropoff will be rebuilt, adding new curbing and drainage to improve ADA compliance. Also next year, work will begin on a $175-million to $225-million ground transportation center.
The public-private partnership between the airport and rental car companies will include a new consolidated car rental facility and parking garage expansion. Currently, the airport routinely fills its 3,400-space garage and surface parking spaces and encourages travelers to seek other transportation options to the airport.
“Parking is where the community feels the need for expansion the most,” says airport spokeswoman Stacey Sunday. “We are filling all of our parking spaces every weekend, and Thursday is becoming the new Friday, when we start to run out of spaces.”
The concourse phase of the project is still in conceptual design, with officials yet to decide if the airport’s two concourses will be replaced or remodeled. “Doing nothing is not an option,” Sunday says, adding that the start of any construction is at least two years out.
The airport, which receives no local tax dollars, plans to aggressively pursue a variety of funding options for the projects.
“The blend of public-private projects and grant-eligible programs opens a wide array of possibilities for federal, state, private funding and bonds,” Sunday says. “The Nevada congressional delegation, the Nevada governor and federal agencies are all aware of the airport’s funding needs.”
Much of Reno-Tahoe International Airport dates to the early 1980s, when the metro area had a population under 175,000, a number that has grown to more than a half-million today. The airport is expected to see a 40% increase in passengers over the next four decades.
The MoreRNO initiative promises to feature regional artists and “more architecture inspired by the Reno-Tahoe region,” something Sperber says was important to the airport authority board.
“The board said to staff that we wanted it themed to be reflective of Northern Nevada,” Sperber says. “A little more wow factor.”
Airport spokeswoman Sunday says it’s too early to discuss specifics, but future travelers can expect “something more artsy than you might see at a concrete and chrome airport. We want to be more fun.”