Terminal parking will be expanded by 400 spaces this year at Arnold Palmer Regional Airport.
Gabe Monzo, Westmoreland County Airport Authority executive director, on Tuesday told the board the nearly $800,000 project will be complete by fall and should stop visitors from parking in a grassy area when no spaces are available.
“The parking lots now are overflowing,” Monzo said. “Especially with the gravel lot.”
With the new spaces, parking at the airport will total some 1,500 spaces, he said.
Monzo said most of the parking is used by Spirit Airlines' passengers and for rental vehicles available through four agencies based at the airport: Enterprise, Budget, Davis and Hertz.
In 2015, the airport logged a 45 percent increase in passengers over the previous year, from 244,618 to 355,910. Most of the increase was attributed to Spirit Airlines' foray into daily, nonstop flights to Las Vegas and Chicago, but those flights were discontinued in mid-November.
Federal funding will pay for 90 percent of the parking project, he said, with the state and authority to each kick in 5 percent of costs.
In a second project to be undertaken this year, $1.3 million will be spent to overlay one of the taxiways with concrete. Monzo said half the same taxiway underwent a similar rehabilitation last year, and this year's work is an extension of that project.
Similar work will be done to a taxiway at Rostraver Airport at a cost of $184,000, Monzo said.
In an unrelated matter, Dan Hewitt, the authority's solicitor, advised the board the Unity Township Zoning Hearing Board on Feb. 23 will consider a request to allow a cell tower to be erected near Gravel Hill Road, within a half-mile of the airport.
Hewitt said the tower appears to meet FAA standards for its proposed location. Regardless, he said he and Monzo plan to attend the meeting to express concerns over its proximity to the airport.
Monzo said while aircraft might not be endangered by the tower, helicopter traffic is a concern.
Monzo had no other details regarding the tower's dimensions or other specifications.
Harry Hosack, a Unity zoning officer, could not be reached for comment. No one else at the municipal building had access to the information or had knowledge of any published legal ads regarding the upcoming meeting.