Thursday, Sept. 8, 2005
AG Corbett files Antitrust action against "HIA" owner to block attempted monopoly on airport parking market
HARRISBURG - Attorney General Tom Corbett today filed an Antitrust lawsuit in federal court to stop the owner of the Harrisburg International Airport (HIA) from acquiring through eminent domain, nearby property that is owned by Cramer Airport Parking, HIA's only customer parking competitor. The lawsuit seeks to preserve competitive pricing and services for parking at Central Pennsylvania's largest airport facility.
The lawsuit, filed by the Attorney General's Antitrust Section, names the Susquehanna Area Regional Airport Authority (SARAA) as a defendant. SARAA, which owns and operates HIA, is accused of violating federal antitrust laws. The complaint states that the authority's action to acquire a competing business would create a monopoly and likely force customers to pay higher prices and receive fewer services by eliminating customer choice.
Corbett said this past March SARAA began eminent domain proceedings in Dauphin County Court to acquire 17 acres on West Harrisburg Pike in Lower Swatara Township that is owned by Stanford E. Cramer to provide parking services. Cramer purchased the property in 1967 and converted it into a parking business to serve airport customers.
The Cramer land does not abut SARAA's property, and instead is surrounded by property owned by Amtrak and Norfolk Southern, plus other commercial and residential lots.
According to the complaint, Cramer Airport Parking offers 1,000 spaces less than one mile from HIA and can expand to 2,000 spaces. The current rates are $5 per day, $28 per week and a reduced fee if the customer uses available discount coupons. The parking facility provides shuttle service to the airport.
SARAA offers 2,474 parking spaces in its parking garage at the airport. The rates are $1 per hour for the first two hours and $2 for each additional hour up to a daily maximum of $14. Garage parking is adjacent to the HIA terminal.
In addition, SARAA offers 3,100 parking spaces at its Economy Long-Term Parking lot known as "SmartPark," less than a mile from the terminal by shuttle. Customers using that facility pay $5 per day and $30 per week. SARAA has the potential to expand its facility by 9,000 parking spaces using space in its daily lots, "SmartPark" and property in front of Penn State's Middletown Campus.
The complaint states that HIA parking lots already operate well below capacity. The airport also purchased property from Bethlehem Steel that remains undeveloped.
Corbett said SARAA's Declaration of Taking stated that it intends to use the Cramer property to construct "appropriate facilities" which will "service, improve, promote and maintain the continued practices conducted by the airport."
"In reality, the authority has no actual plans for the site," Corbett said. "The airport has not filed applications for building permits or other land use and is separated by railroad tracks, making it less desirable to develop for aviation-related purposes."
Corbett said SARAA has not taken any steps to obtain an agreement from Amtrak or Norfolk Southern to move the railroad tracks.
The lawsuit states that according to SARAA employees, the airport is interested in the Cramer property to aid it in its dispute with the Middletown Area School District on the imposition of a parking tax and to eliminate Cramer as a competitor. Neither reason provides a legitimate basis to acquire the property through eminent domain, the lawsuit states.
Corbett said, "If the authority is successful in its attempt to takeover the Cramer property, it will illegally create a parking monopoly over airport parking services and consumers will lose. It's that simple. Under federal antitrust laws, government agencies are often immune from an antitrust lawsuit. However, the airport, in taking over its parking competitor, is acting outside its authority under Pennsylvania law and therefore has no immunity."
The complaint asks the federal court to:
The complaint was filed in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.
The case is being litigated by Chief Deputy Attorney General James A. Donahue III and Deputy Attorneys General Joseph S. Betsko and Jennifer Thomson of the Attorney General's Antitrust Section in Harrisburg.
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EDITORS NOTE: Copies of the complaint are available by contacting the Press Office at 717-787-5211.