New car rental centre to bring dramatic change to Miami airport

Picking up or dropping off someone at Miami International
Airport has always been an adventure, as traffic congestion and tight security
combine to deter lengthy or warm welcomes and farewells.

Those interactions could begin to become less stressed when
the first major component of a huge transportation hub — still under
construction — opens early Tuesday just east of Miami International Airport.

A rental car centre will be operational then, for the first
time bringing under one roof all the major and many of the smaller car rental
companies that offer vehicles at MIA.

The opening of the rental car centre will mark completion
of the first major phase of the $1.7-billion Miami Intermodal Center travel
hub, which by 2015 will connect in one site virtually all county modes of
transportation: aircraft, cars, Metrorail, Tri-Rail, Amtrak and perhaps in the
future high-speed rail.

The MIC, as the travel hub is known, is one of three major
transportation projects under way in South Florida — along with the $1.8-billion
reconstruction of Interstate 595 in central Broward, and the $1-billion
construction of a tunnel under Biscayne Bay to the Port of Miami.

Starting Tuesday at 3am, people who rent cars at MIA will
no longer have to meander through back streets to return the vehicle at
hard-to-find locations. They can just drive into the new rental car centre just
east of the airport, drop off the vehicle, then hop onto a new rental car
shuttle service and
get to the terminal.

The new system will replace the multiple rental car shuttle
buses now operating at MIA, one of the key contributors to traffic congestion
on the airport road network.

Reducing congestion at and around the airport and linking
modes of transportation in one hub have been key concepts behind construction
of the MIC, which includes the rental car center, the still-under-construction
Miami central station and transit services and major upgrades on roads leading
to the airport.

“This has been a long vision, a long journey since the
concept became reality,” said Gus Pego, Florida Department of Transportation
District Six secretary in Miami.

Private car traffic also
contributes to the airport’s dense congestion. While traffic involving private
cars will not be shifted to the MIC, transportation officials believe that once
transit services are available at the hub, traffic tie-ups at the airport will
be reduced.

“By moving all the major
rental car agencies over to a central location, we’re decongesting the airport
by 30 per cent,” Pego said.

Once the MIC is all
finished, likely in 2015, someone arriving at or leaving from the airport will
not need to be picked up or dropped off at airport terminals.