Business

With parking lots filled, Logan sends cars to Suffolk Downs

Passengers hoping to park their car at Logan International Airport Tuesday afternoon found themselves being sent on a surprise trip to Suffolk Downs racetrack instead.

Between Massachusetts families returning late from last week’s school vacation week and New Hampshire residents heading out for their school vacation week, the airport’s usually crowded lots were overflowing. As of 12:30 p.m., drivers were directed to the parking lot at Suffolk Downs in East Boston, where they can leave their car free of charge and catch a courtesy shuttle back to the airport. The Massachusetts Port Authority reopened the airport lots at 4 p.m.

Logan’s parking lots, which have a total of 16,200 spots, hit capacity on more than 50 days in 30 weeks last year, usually on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, when business travel peaks. The airport started a complimentary valet system about four years ago to deal with the excess cars, relying on overtime shifts and temporary workers — at a cost of $1 million a year — to shuffle up to 1,000 vehicles a day. Last week, the airport valeted about 2,600 cars, squeezing arriving cars between rows of parked vehicles until spots opened up in the garages; this year the airport also tucked more than 750 vehicles underneath the elevated roadway that runs between the terminals.

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But on Tuesday, all the airport's extra nooks and crannies were filled, causing Massport to send drivers elsewhere for the first time since 2006.

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