Gov. Rick Scott made a sound investment in the bay area this week when he proposed spending $194 million in state money for the expansion of Tampa International Airport. The Legislature should approve Scott's proposal and find as much additional money as it can for this worthy project.
Airport officials expect to spend $943 million to build the Tampa Gateway Center, a 2.3-million-square-foot building that will rise five stories and house car rental companies and retail south of the airport's main terminal. A 1.3-mile people mover will link the new building to the main terminal, which will be better positioned for future expansion. Officials plan to begin construction this year and finish by 2017.
The airport will finance the bulk of the project by issuing bonds, and consumers ultimately will see higher ticket prices and car rental fees along with other assessments to pay off the debt. The project smartly puts Tampa International on track to better compete with other airports such as Orlando International Airport, where the governor proposes contributing $213.5 million in state money toward a transit facility and people mover complex. Scott's pledge to Tampa International helps the airport keep moving forward on a solid path toward playing an even bigger role in the economic growth of the region.