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Smoother business travel @ PDX

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Tuesday, January 01, 2008

GOOD NEWS for business travelers: Portland International Airport is in the midst of several projects that will help it better serve its more than 14 million yearly passengers. Travelers probably noticed a handful of improvements during the holidays, and there are more on the way.

The Port of Portland recently added new parking features at PDX. General manager of aviation Daren Griffin says the parking guidance system is one of just two in the U.S. It tells drivers how many spaces are open and on what floors as they enter the garage, ensuring every available spot is found. Reader boards installed on the roads to and from PDX relay the status of parking and traffic, allowing drivers to make better decisions on where to go.

Other projects are in the works, including a second parking garage with 3,000 spaces, which will be half open in spring 2009. January kicks off two years of construction to widen Airport Way to three lanes; Griffin says the work will be done in the median to cut down on traffic obstacles. This month also brings the beginning of a new baggage screening system project that will move the process out of the ticket lobby and back to  the way it was pre-Sept. 11. Griffin says this is the most complicated project the airport has ever done, and it will take three years to complete. To the relief of passengers, all construction will be below the lobby.

Griffin says 2007 was the most successful year he’s seen for acquiring new flight services at PDX. The airport added seven domestic non-stop flights and two international non-stop destinations, Mexico City and Amsterdam. The port is also looking to add non-stop flights to the Toronto, Calgary, and Washington, D.C., metro areas in the coming year.

Night construction in concourses A and D is wrapping up, and travelers will note several local businesses have been added to the list of PDX restaurants. Beaverton Bakery, Pizzacato, Laurelwood Public House, Rogue Public House, and Big Town Hero are open, and Rose’s Deli will be in place this spring. The number of Starbucks locations was upped from one to four, and the five Coffee People locations will remain.

The concourses also feature new fixed seating with more electrical outlets. The free WiFi throughout the airport is one of the reasons passengers rate PDX so high; the port reports there are more than 2,000 WiFi connections at PDX each day. The airport is also phasing in new flight display monitors. Lines at the security check are reportedly moving faster after the Transportation Security Administration took over document checking in October.

Travelers looking for a heads-up on conditions at the airport can log into FlightStats.com before their flights. The website provides up-to-the-minute details on flight delays, traffic jams and weather concerns for PDX, as well as most airports around the world, including Oregon’s regional hubs in Medford and Redmond. The new “Chatter” feature allows passengers to share tips and observations as they work their way to the gates. And for information straight from the source, log in to flypdx.com.

According to Flight Stats, a Portland-based Web company for flight information, PDX ranked well among the top 40 major North American airports in 2007. At 79%, it is fourth-best for flights on time and sixth-best for excessively late flights, with less than 7% of planes running 45 minutes late or more.


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