County Gets Look into Future of Tampa International

Future improvements include adding trains, moving the rental car facility and expanding terminals.

A new light rail train, expanded terminals and a new location for the rental car facility are among the changes that could come to Tampa International Airport in the coming years, an official told Pinellas County Commissioners on Tuesday.

Joseph Lopano, Chief Executive Officer of Tampa International, laid out the plans at Tuesday's county commission meeting. In his presentation, Lopano said future build outs of the airport would mean TIA could easily support nearly 35 million passengers by the year 2041.

In 2011, 16,732,051 passengers traveled through Tampa International.

According to Lopano, the biggest issues at the airport now are congestion and capacity. Those issues include:

  • Curbside congestion
  • Roadway congestion
  • Parking capacity
  • Rental car facility locations
  • Connectivity
  • Capacity needs for international processing
  • Main terminal capacity

In the presentation, which Lopano said he will officially present to his board this spring, he laid out plans to move many existing cars and buses away from the terminals and closer to the south development area near the existing post office and economy parking garages. 

Lopano said the existing rental car facility would be moved south of the economy parking garages along with employee parking and possibly the Marriott hotel. 

Called an APM, Lopano said a new light rail train would run from the main terminal and make stops at the economy parking lots, rental car facilities and other new commercial developments by the existing economy parking garages. 

The train would, "take the cars and buses off our roadways," Lopano said. "It will save us from building more garages."

After approval from his board, Lopano said they would begin the process to build the train, which would be completed in three to four years. 

No specific costs were mentioned, but Lopano said those would become clearer once the project gets approval from his board. 

"We are maxed out of our capacity for rental cars, we don’t have a choice," Lopano said of moving the rental car facility. 

Expanding the main terminal, along with two other terminals, would not be part of the first phase of construction. Those items would be built in seven to 10 years. 

Lopano said during that part of construction, the TSA screening area would be moved so passengers coming from the Southwest Airlines terminal would be able to switch terminals for international flights without having to go through security a second time. 

"This looks like a great plan," said county commission chair Ken Welch. "I think TIA is always one of the great airports in the world." 

We want to hear from Pinellas Beaches Patch readers: What changes would you make at Tampa International Airport, if any? Sound off in the comments section below.


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