Tampa International Airport will launch construction on a $950 million terminal complex this summer thanks in part to a big economic stimulus check from Uncle Sam.
The Federal Aviation Administration will send an $8 million airport improvement grant to Tampa International for rebuilding a taxiway between the two main runways. The $52 million project starts in July and will employ 221 workers onsite and in supporting jobs, airport officials said.
"It's projects like this that will put folks back to work in the Tampa Bay area," said Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, who announced the grant at Tampa International on Monday morning.
As recently as summer, Tampa International planned to open the first phase of the new terminal complex in 2015. That's when projections showed the airport would hit 12.5 million departing passengers annually — too much for the 38-year-old terminal to handle.
But passenger traffic fell 5 percent in 2008 to just over 9.1 million. The numbers are dropping even faster this year as businesses cut travel budgets and nervous consumers stay close to home. Now, it looks like the new terminal won't need to open until 2020, says Louis Miller, Tampa International's executive director.
But airport officials want to help bolster local construction employment by jump-starting two early phases of the terminal project. The biggest piece is rebuilding a taxiway airliners use to move between Tampa International's main north-south runways and gates at the airside buildings.
Taxiway B will be rebuilt with a bridge over the parkway to the new terminal building. The project was moved ahead nearly four years using the federal money, state fuel-tax revenues and bonds supported by a passenger facility charge paid by air travelers.
Officials also expect to move up by 15 months a $26 million stormwater drainage project on the new terminal site, north of the current terminal. The work should employ 90 construction workers and create 23 jobs at companies supplying project contractors, Miller said.
Federal money for the elevated taxiway comes out of $1.1 billion in airport improvement funds that were part of the stimulus bill signed by President Barack Obama in February.
Steve Huettel can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3384.