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Lagging behind international airports, especially those in Europe and Asia, U.S. airports are now pouring millions into upgrades that makes the hubs brighter, more entertaining places to fly into or connect.
Take a glimpse at the future of Tampa International Airport:
When renovations of the main terminal are finished by 2017, it will be turned into a sleeker, brighter, more modern and more wide-open space.
There will still be kiosks and free-standing counters in the center of the terminal, but the storefronts will be gone. Instead, they’ll be pushed up against the walls, freeing up space in the center to make the new terminal more airy.
The entrances to the airside shuttles will be pushed outward to free space inside the terminal. New outside spaces will also be created. The new colors will be lighter too.
The changes were demonstrated in new artist renderings shown to the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority on Monday.
The board, which oversees the airport, approved an amendment to the 2014 capital budget on Monday to pay for the $928 million needed to upgrade, expand and add to the airport in the next three years.
“This is a significant step toward making our 20-year vision for Tampa International Airport a reality, as well as putting thousands of people to work and contributing to the Tampa Bay region’s economy,” said airport chief executive officer Joe Lopano in a prepared statement. “These initial projects will help us decongest roadways and curbsides, allow rental car companies to grow, and begin to set the stage for the doubling of passenger capacity projected over the next couple of decades.”
The airport plans to spend $122.5 million to redo the main terminal and revamp all of its concession options, bringing in a newer — and bigger — lineup of restaurants, bars and shops to the main terminal and eventually the airsides as well.
But the main thrust of the project will be new construction: The airport plans to spend $318.7 million on a consolidated rental car facility that will be built 1.3 miles south of the main building and $417.5 million on an automated people mover to connect it to the terminal.
This is the first, nearly $1 billion phase of what will be several decades of construction at the airport. Eventually, the airport plans to spend $4.1 billion on new construction and to upgrade and perform maintenance on existing airport infrastructure like runways.
In December, the Aviation Authority voted to hire Texas firm Austin Commercial to design and oversee construction. But the firm has pledged to hire workers and firms from the Tampa Bay area to do the work.
The new rental car facility, automated people mover and terminal renovation is expected to create about 8,000 jobs and have an estimated $320 million economic impact on the community over the next four years.
(c)2014 the Tampa Bay Times (St. Petersburg, Fla.). Distributed by MCT Information Services.