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Chris Jones

Work Under Way on New Airport Car-Rental Center

10 May 2004

The Clark County Aviation Department plans to stage a groundbreaking ceremony today for a new $150 million consolidated rental car facility that department officials hope will greatly improve the automobile rental process at McCarran International Airport.

Last year, tourists and locals combined to pick up or drop off nearly 1.5 million rented vehicles at or near McCarran, which now relies on a patchwork of agencies located north of the main terminal on the aptly named Rent A Car Road and in other areas near the airport.

Clark County Aviation Director Randy Walker said Thursday the new centralized McCarran Rent-A-Car Center should greatly ease traffic congestion at the nation's seventh-busiest passenger airport when it debuts sometime in early 2006.

"We're totally out of space for rental car agencies" in their existing locations, Walker said. "And right now, each company has its own fleet of buses, which is very inefficient.

"This center will make for much fewer buses carrying the same number of people, and that will help congestion and reduce air pollution by having fewer vehicle trips."

McCarran plans to hire a third-party company to operate one fleet of common airport shuttle buses to ferry renters on their approximately three-mile journey from the airport to the center. Buses now operated by individual rental companies such as Hertz or Avis will no longer be allowed to pick up passengers at the airport.

"Each company now has to run its own bus even if there's only one person to pick up," Walker said of the current system. "If you have 10 companies you'll have 10 buses, but in this case we could do the same job with just one bus."

And fewer buses will mean more curb space for other vehicles coming and going to the airport, he added.

Walker said work began on the center about one month ago on a 68-acre parcel south of the Las Vegas Beltway near East Warm Springs Road and Gilespie Street. Plans call for a 111,000-square-foot customer service building; a 1.8 million-square-foot, trilevel parking garage capable of housing 4,500 vehicles; and three so-called quick turnaround areas totaling 148,000 square feet. The turnaround areas will be used to clean and refuel returned vehicles, Walker said.

The center will also include a 150,000-gallon underground gasoline storage unit and 150 fueling pumps.

Getting to and from the center takes only 60 seconds more than current averages, Walker said, adding he believes the new building will be easier for passengers unfamiliar with McCarran roadways to find.

John Sawdon, a partner with the project's architect, Swisher & Hall, said efforts were taken to ensure none of the center's 10 tenants had an unfair advantage luring in would-be customers.

"The uncommitted customer will have access to 10 different rental car companies at once, and once they've done a transaction, there's equal access to the parking garage where the vehicles are housed," Sawdon said. "No customer will have to walk more than 300 feet to get their car."

Added Swisher & Hall Partner Ron Hall: "This facility has been designed to be extremely flexible so it can carry on into the future. ... The collaboration between the airport staff, architect and 10 different rental car agencies was a monumental undertaking trying to get everyone on the same page."

Sawdon said space within the center was allocated based on each companies' current market share. Those space allocations can be altered should the current economic landscape shift, he said.

The center's bid cost was listed at approximately $123 million, but Walker said design and management expenses will likely drive the actual total closer to $150 million.