TAMPA — A Texas firm will design and build the first, nearly $1 billion, phase of Tampa International Airport's master plan for expansion.
The Hillsborough County Aviation Authority unanimously voted Thursday to hire Austin Commercial, which will oversee the design and construction of the airport's new consolidated rental facility and automated people mover.
Airport staff ranked the company first out of eight firms that applied for the job. Austin touted its experience designing dozens of consolidated car rental (ConRAC) and automated people mover facilities for airports across the country.
The company also committed to hiring Tampa Bay workers and Tampa Bay firms, and to surpass the airport's 18 percent set-aside for firms owned by women and minorities.
"We're going to create jobs in this community very shortly," said Joe Lopano, Tampa International's chief executive officer.
The winning bid was supposed to be picked in August, but confusion about the set-aside policy in July led the airport to redo the bid process.
The first phase, which is set to be finished by 2017, is expected to create about 8,000 jobs. Those jobs are estimated to have a $320 million economic impact on the community over the next four years, according to airport officials.
"To put it in perspective, this is one of the largest projects I've seen in Tampa Bay in quite a while," said Hillsborough County Commissioner Victor Crist, who sits on the aviation board. "I want to make sure that we have as many dollars as possible benefiting the Tampa Bay economy."
The ConRAC will be five stories tall and enclose 2.3 million square feet. It will be built to get rental cars and rental car counters out of the main terminal, freeing up space there for future expansion.
A new 1.3-mile automated people mover will be built linking the ConRAC to the main terminal. Three trains of three cars each will run continuously, linking the main terminal to the ConRAC building to the economy parking garage. Total ride time: 3 minutes.
By moving rental car traffic out of the main terminal, the ConRAC will also extend the life of the airport's roads and parking garages. The new ConRAC will also free up the old car rental surface lots for commercial development, giving the airport 57 acres to add lucrative amenities such as a hotel, shops and restaurants.
The total cost of the ConRAC: $318.7 million. Total cost of the people mover: $417.5 million.
"Our team is committed to this project," said Austin chief executive officer William McAdoo. "We've put our heart and soul into it."
Jamal Thalji can be reached at (813) 226-3404, firstname.lastname@example.org or @jthalji on Twitter.