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The parking garage at Buffalo Niagara International Airport will be back in business early Monday morning, but parkers will face tight security measures.

The 900-space parking structure, located directly in front of the airport, has been empty since Sept. 11, following the terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington.

The Federal Aviation Administration, after the attacks, barred vehicle parking within 300 feet of airport terminals. But the FAA lifted the ban in exchange for some tough, new security procedures, said Lawrence Meckler, executive director of the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority.

"They've given us approval to start using the garage again, but all cars entering will be subject to physical inspections," Meckler said. "Drivers will be asked to stop and open their trunks and security personnel will be looking inside the passenger compartments of their vehicles."

The NFTA official advised that those planning to park in the ramp should build extra time into their travel schedules to accommodate the security checks.

"We're very pleased the FAA has allowed us to reopen the parking garage, and we think the convenience of being able to park so close to the terminal more than makes up for any extra time spent passing through the new security checkpoints," Meckler said.

Following the terrorist attacks and the FAA order, the NFTA worked with the various car rental agencies that operate out of the facility to get their vehicles removed to off-site lots. Some 400 parking slots are set aside for rental car use on the bottom level of the three-story garage.

The NFTA's budget includes $4 million in annual revenues from the parking ramp, with some $1.3 million in parking fees collected through the first three months of the fiscal year. With the garage shut down 19 full days, the authority missed out on more than $200,000 in potential revenue.

The parking garage will open at 3 a.m. every day to accommodate travelers with early morning flights.

Meanwhile, American Airlines announced it was immediately suspending
freight handling operations at the Buffalo airport, effective at the close of business Friday. The airline made similar announcements regarding cargo operations at Greater Rochester International, Salt Lake City International and Ronald Reagan/Washington National.

The airline cited increasing operation costs and a trend of decreasing freight volumes as factors contributing to the decision.

The Fort Worth, Texas-based airline Friday also began the process of releasing some 20,000 employees. No local numbers were available as layoffs will be carried out over the next two to four weeks, affecting American, TWA and American Eagle unit workers.


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