FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. -- When construction of the new Army and Air Force Exchange begins in July, the current PX will remain open. But what is now a parking lot will be transformed into a construction zone.

The new facility will be built on top of the current parking lot, leaving Exchange and garrison officials searching for an alternative parking plan for customers. The PX will lose close to 600 parking spaces while the new facility is constructed.

"We have some ideas on parking," said Jonathan Bright, general manager of the Fort Meade AAFES. "We are identifying areas that are close to the current Exchange."

The new 167,000-square-foot PX will provide more services than the current 130,000-square-foot facility, including a larger food court with six food vendors and a pharmacy.

"We're going to be able to provide better service to our customers," Bright said. "Everyone is very excited about the project."

Construction plans for the $38 million project aim for the new PX, with a new parking lot, to be completed in two years. Once the facility is complete, the current PX will be demolished and a parking lot will be paved there.

During a March 8 meeting about the new PX, parking options were discussed.

"Parking is a significant issue," said Bert Rice, Fort Meade's director of transformation. "For the customer, you have to think about having that reasonably available to the current store during the entire construction phase."

The PX averages about 1,850 transactions per day, with customers filling half of the 600-space parking lot daily. Based on these numbers, officials determined that at least 300 to 350 spots are required to accommodate customers during the construction.

One plan includes turning the grassy area near PNC Bank at the corner of Reece and MacArthur roads into a temporary gravel parking lot to create 100 spaces. More spaces could be created by using the median at the access drive on MacArthur Road.

Officials also considered the demolition of the PXtra, which would provide an additional 100 spaces. The employee parking lot, which was initially designated as a construction staging area, could also provide another 116 parking spaces.

With these possible solutions to the parking shortage during construction, 342 spaces would be created for customers. Officials are working on a sketch of the proposed temporary parking plan for review.

"None of this has been firmed up yet," Rice said. "It's a work in progress."

Bright said he will communicate with customers throughout the construction process, including updates on the changing parking situation.

A solution for the parking lot is expected to be determined and set up prior to the groundbreaking in July.

"When we start the process in July we hope to have all parking issues resolved," Bright said. "That's our goal."