Florida gateway Tampa International Airport is continuing to invest in a master plan for infrastructure development, including new airside and landside facilities
Tampa International Airport (TPA) executives began the process of updating the Master Plan for the airport’s 3,300-acre campus back in late 2011. The final plan – known as the 2012 Airport Master Plan Update (AMPU) – was approved and formally adopted on 4 April 2013, and is designed to develop the gateway such that it will be able to handle more passengers in the best possible way.
The plan began as a study designed to maximise the capacity and longevity of the gateway’s existing Main Terminal facilities, while maintaining the level of service for which TPA is known, recalls Danny Valentine, senior communications manager at the gateway.
It developed a strategy for a comprehensive, three-phase expansion: Phase 1 is ‘decongestion’, Phase 2 concerns ‘enabling/decongestion’ and Phase 3 relates to ‘expansion’. The strategy is not set in stone: in fact, it is built upon a ‘build as demand dictates’ approach to expansion, with the execution of the various phases of development being based on the rate of growth in passenger traffic.
Three years ago, TPA initiated an update project to validate the Phase 2 and 3 project elements by determining whether conditions in 2016 matched the original findings of the 2012 AMPU. The airport operator primarily verified forecasts and capacity needs and evaluated various alternatives to meet those needs.
Through all the planning, “Our primary driver is to accommodate passenger growth in our existing space while enhancing the overall guest experience,” Valentine informs. “When we broke ground on our expansion, many of our facilities were at or nearing capacity, including our roadways and kerbsides.
“Phase 1 and 2 help us decongest our airport (and improve passenger experience) while Phase 3 helps us expand. Ultimately, when all three phases are complete, we will be able to serve about 34 million passengers per year (last year we served more than 21 million guests – an all-time record for our airport).
“Importantly, we will do all this while maintaining our existing footprint,” Valentine declares.
The first phase, which was substantially completed in 2018, helped to decongest the kerbsides, roads and Main Terminal at the airport, and included the construction of a 2.6 million-square-foot Rental Car Center, a 1.4-mile automated people mover, an expansion of the Main Terminal, a new Central Receiving and Distribution Center and the creation of a new Taxiway J.
Phase 1 cost about US$979 million. The new Rental Car Center and SkyConnect people mover were both opened in February 2018. These were the largest two project elements for Phase 1 and, while the project did involve upgrades to airside infrastructure, including upgrading airside concessions and adding new airside passenger amenities, it mainly concerned landside expansion. Among the biggest airside improvements was actually the installation of hundreds of new charging pylons.
Phase 2, which is budgeted at $544 million, includes 16 new express kerbsides for passengers with no baggage to check in, a new central utility plant, a 35-acre commercial development (called SkyCenter, this will feature a new nine-story office building, a hotel, retail space and a petrol/gas station), roadway expansion, demolition of the old Red Side Rental Car Garage and a new Taxiway A.
Phase 3, the expansion phase, will include the construction of a new 16-gate Airside D facility capable of handling both domestic and international flights. This new-build phase is budgeted at $671 million and the construction of this facility will bring TPA up to its total forecast handling capacity of 34 million passengers a year.
All the expansion will be funded by a variety of sources, including revenue-backed bonds, passenger facility charge (PFC) and customer facility charge (CFC) backed bonds, state grants and some federal dollars.
Of course, the airport cannot go it alone with this development process. Numerous other interested parties have to be brought on board. And, according to Valentine, “We’ve worked very closely with our airlines and tenants and they have been very supportive of the Master Plan to date.”