The Medford airport is planning to build a seven-bay light maintenance shop to handle work for the five rental-car companies based there.
The proposal went before the city's Site Plan and Architectural Commission last week.
The 9,050-square-foot center would consolidate varied detailing and washing operations for rental returns by Avis, Budget, Enterprise, Hertz and National agencies. In a business where time is of the essence, the project is welcomed.
"Right now, we have to send cars down the road to our wash facility," said local Hertz Manager Nathan Oseth. "It will be a time-saver because we have to drive through fewer intersections and there will be less traffic to deal with. Depending on how dirty a car is, it takes a half-hour to an hour to get a car ready right now. This will be a 15-minute time-saver."
The maintenance and car-wash building is the second phase of a project to improve rental-car operations at the airport.
Last year, two above-ground fuel tanks with four dispensers were installed on a 5-acre parcel southwest of the terminal.
Airport Director Bern Case said the airport has been collecting fees from the five rental companies for several years with the two projects in mind.
"This way five rental companies are not building five facilities, and it works well as a cooperative effort," Case said. "Right now, Budget goes to the Budget trucks lot on Biddle Road and a couple of the operators go to the fixed-base (air services) operators to wash cars. There are some that I don't know what they do, but in the past they had to go all over for fuel and that's not very effective. Now it's only a couple of hundred yards from where they store the cars. It's one of those things that oozes with efficiencies."
Rental-car operations are one of the top three airport revenue generators, along with parking and commercial airline fees, Case said.
In 2012, the rental companies operating at the airport had combined revenue of nearly $7.6 million, up 3.8 percent from the $7.4 million in 2011.
"That tracks with the number of passengers we've seen," Case said. "It's a sizable chunk."
The maintenance center, designed by Brian Westerhout, principal architect at Ron Grimes Architects, includes an automatic car-wash system that uses only 7 gallons per wash.
Case said two extra bays were built, allowing for additional rental companies entering the market later on. In the short-term, he said, airport operations likely would use one of the bays.
He said any work involving certified mechanics or warranties would continue to be done elsewhere.