ORANGE COUNTY — The chronic parking shortage at John Wayne Airport eased this week with the opening of 1,000 new spaces--just in time for the airport's busiest weekend.
But Thanksgiving travelers who park for more than a day should expect to pay extra for prime spaces.
The new structure, located across from the main terminal, has a daily rate of $11, compared with $7 at the long-term lots located about half a mile away. Both lots have a $1 hourly rate for short-term parkers.
The new structure, which opened Sunday, is the first phase of a $27-million project to expand the two existing parking garages. A second structure containing nearly 1,000 more spaces is scheduled to open in the spring.
"People have been complaining that there's no spaces," said Humberto Rocha, a bus driver for a valet service that shuttles travelers from the Main Street parking lot to the airport. "I think it's going to help a lot."
Congestion has increased in recent years with the steady rise in the number of passengers who use John Wayne Airport. The airport served 4.5 million passengers in 1990 but now serves more than 7 million.
As usual, officials expect big crowds this Thanksgiving Day weekend. The Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Sunday after are traditionally the busiest days of the year.