It's heerree! Starting today, Philadelphia, you have a new, well-lighted and - hopefully - easy-to-find cell-phone waiting lot at Philadelphia International Airport.
A storm of controversy erupted in August when police announced a crackdown and then began issuing tickets up to $147 to drivers parked illegally on ramps leading into the airport to await arriving flights.
A dim and makeshift lot off Bartram Avenue designated for such waits was nearly impossible for motorists to find.
Officials vowed in September to have a new lot - and clear signs for reaching it - in place by Jan. 1.
At 1 p.m. today, Mayor Nutter and other city and airport officials will cut the ribbon on the 150-spot lot across from the A East-A West parking garage.
The lighted lot is on a paved portion of old Route 291, also known as Industrial Highway, which was closed to through traffic when a runway was lengthened last year.
Sometime in January, the lot, which is free and a one-minute drive to the baggage-claim areas, will get three electronic boards announcing flight arrivals.
Workers were busy yesterday erecting blue cell-phone-lot signs on the airport property. Some signs were already up, but draped in black cloth to prevent motorists from pulling in before the lot officially opens after today's ribbon cutting.
Signs installed earlier in the fall to direct drivers to the old lot on Bartram Avenue from I-95 exit ramps will be modified to direct them to the new lot by early January, airport officials said yesterday.
"We expect travelers will be pleased to see a safe and convenient pullover area. This is welcome news just in time for the holidays," said Catherine Rossi, spokeswoman for AAA Mid-Atlantic, which last summer urged ticketed drivers to take their cases to court.
"Philly travelers deserve the amenities of other world-class airports, and a cell-phone lot is one of them. Kudos to the airport, the city, and the state for finally making this happen," Rossi said.
City Councilman Frank Rizzo, a tireless proponent of a well-marked, convenient cell-phone lot, said "it was a long time coming." Rizzo said "it just proves that you can't give up, especially in politics, on any issue.
"It's going to be well-lighted. It's going to have an emergency phone in case somebody is in distress, their cell phone is dead, or they don't have a cell phone," the councilman said. "I personally thank the administration for listening."
Here's how to find the cell-phone waiting lot:
Take the airport "arrivals" road and follow signs for parking, economy parking, and rental-car return. Take the first left turn - opposite the A East-A West parking garage. The cell-phone lot is straight ahead. If you pass the Marriott Hotel, you've gone too far.
You can also loop around, past the A-F garages, following signs for "return to terminal." Turn left on Route 291, and enter the cell-phone lot from the rental-car-return road.
Cost of constructing the new lot, estimated in September at about $500,000, will come from airport aviation funds, not city general-tax revenue, Rina Cutler, Philadelphia's deputy mayor for transportation and utilities, said at the time.
"The issue has been discussed for many years. It is time we created a cell-phone waiting lot for the safety and convenience of the traveling public," Cutler said.
Philadelphia airport police will make safety patrols of the lot, which is designed for short-term use, Cutler had said, noting: "We don't expect people to show up four hours before a flight, and we expect them to stay with their vehicles." Blue signs are posted in the lot advising drivers to stay with their cars.