Garage Privatization Plans: Stuck in Neutral?

Earlier this year the Mayor of Pittsburgh announced his plan to sell or lease garages and lots, possibly meters as well, in order to get an up front lump sum amount that could both retire the Parking Authority’s debt and make a healthy down payment towards the City’s unfunded pension liability. Soon after, the County Executive likewise floated the possibility of leasing or selling the parking garage at Pittsburgh International Airport as a method to bring down airport debt.

What has happened since then? It is almost November and the gears are grinding slowly. The City’s Parking Authority has heard from a consultant that told them, yes, there would be a lot of interest in a lease or sale of the assets. But there are additional steps to be carried out: an even if an interest is expressed, there is a lot of negotiation to follow. Keep in mind that the City has until 2011 to show a 50% minimum funding ratio for its pensions to avoid a state takeover. One would think there would be more urgency.

The County’s Airport Authority-the entity that would have to sign off on a deal for the County-has yet to publicly discuss the issue at any of its board meetings, according to the Authority’s public records officer. There is no timeline other than a self-imposed one by the County Executive (a May newspaper article said the Executive "…will ask the county airport authority to put Pittsburgh International’s parking garage and surface lots, about 13,200 spaces in all, up for sale this year"); by that measure there is no way a deal gets done this year.