Tampa International Airport cuts first $29.9 million check for expansion

These are slides of what the new sign being built at the entrance of Tampa International Airport. It is called a “welcome feature,” costs up to $660,000 and will light up with different colors at night. One slide is an artist’s rendering of what the sign will look like during the day, and the other is what the sign will look like at night.

These are slides of what the new sign being built at the entrance of Tampa International Airport. It is called a “welcome feature,” costs up to $660,000 and will light up with different colors at night. One slide is an artist’s rendering of what the sign will look like during the day, and the other is what the sign will look like at night.

TAMPA — A day after Gov. Rick Scott made a $194 million pledge to help pay for the biggest expansion in Tampa International Airport history, the board that governs the airport cut its first big check for the project.

The Hillsborough County Aviation Authority voted Thursday to pay Austin Commercial up to $29.9 million to design and oversee construction of the newest additions to the airport.

The board approved nearly $1 billion in new construction in April, then voted in December to hire the Texas firm to design and build the project by 2017. Austin will get $27.1 million for the job and can be reimbursed up to $2.8 million for expenses.

Austin pledged to hire Tampa Bay workers and firms, something Hillsborough Commissioner Victor Crist, who is on the board, said he will keep an eye on.

"I'm going to be watching you closely," Crist said. "If you don't make me happy, I won't make you happy later."

The plan calls for the airport to build the Tampa Gateway Center, a five-story, 2.3 million-square-foot car rental and retail facility south of the main terminal, by the economy parking garage. The new building will be connected to the terminal by a 1.3-mile people mover. The purpose of the new building is to move the car rental counters and cars out of the main terminal, freeing up space to expand the terminal in the future.

The total cost of the project is expected to be $943 million. Gov. Rick Scott said Tuesday he's earmarked 21 percent of that cost — $194 million — in his next transportation budget, which has to be approved by the legislature. The airport will finance the rest.

The airport will pay for the rest of the $749 million cost of the project with bonds. On Thursday, it voted to approve new car rental fees to help finance some of that debt.

The board raised a rental car fee and approved a new fee. It voted to double its customer facility charge, or CFC, fee for each vehicle rented at the airport from $2.50 to $5 per day.

It also voted to institute a new fee, a transportation facility charge, or TFC, of $2 that will be charged for each off-airport rental per day. The new fee will be a condition imposed on rental companies that do business with the airport but are based off-site.

The governor's earmark was $78 million less than the airport was hoping to get from the state. The airport will finance the shortfall with more debt borrowed against several sources: the authority itself, CFC fees and the Passenger Facility Charge, or PFC, which is added to every airline ticket.

Here's how the debt now stacks up:

• CFC-backed bonds: $353 million.

• Authority-backed bonds: $206 million.

• PFC-backed bonds: $132 million.

Tampa International Airport cuts first $29.9 million check for expansion 03/06/14 [Last modified: Thursday, March 6, 2014 10:54pm]

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