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Tampa Bay airports get $35.1 million in infrastructure funds; no tower yet

Tampa International Airport, which got the most money, is advocating for a new federally funded air traffic control facility.
Tampa International Airport will receive $21.7 million in the first batch of Federal Aviation Administration funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, sometimes called the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework.
Tampa International Airport will receive $21.7 million in the first batch of Federal Aviation Administration funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, sometimes called the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published Dec. 21, 2021
Updated Dec. 21, 2021

More than $35.1 million is coming to Tampa Bay airports in the first batch of funding allocated through a $1.2 trillion infrastructure package signed into law in November.

The biggest chunk is going to Tampa International Airport, which got $21.7 million, fourth most of any airport in the state. St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport and Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport got $4.9 million and $4.6 million, respectively. Lakeland Linder International Airport got $847,399; a dozen other regional airports got $295,000 or less.

The money comes from the package’s first batch of airport funding, $2.89 billion for more than 3,000 airports nationwide. Over the next five years, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, sometimes called the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework, will dole out $15 billion for airport work, plus another $5 billion for terminal improvements and $5 billion for tower repairs and replacements.

It’s that last batch that’s being watched most closely in Hillsborough County, where Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, has made a replacement for Tampa International Airport’s nearly 50-year-old air traffic control tower a priority. Workers in the Federal Aviation Administration-operated tower have reported wiring, plumbing, air conditioning and window problems in recent years.

Related: Tampa airport's 'deteriorating' control tower must be replaced, Castor says

So far, there’s no timetable on a process for allocating that tower funding, a Castor spokesperson said. But the lawmaker was nonetheless pleased with Tampa International Airport’s initial haul.

“(The) Tampa airport is one of our most important economic engines and the gateway to the dynamic Tampa Bay region,” Castor said in a statement. “These investments will help build a safer and more sustainable airport while creating jobs and connecting Tampa Bay to the world.”

Tampa International Airport spokesperson Veronica Cintron said the initial $21.7 million grant had been earmarked for a ceiling replacement in its baggage claim area, plus an expansion of its air cargo services. The airport will outline how it’ll spend future infrastructure grants, expected to be similar in size, in the coming months.

“We’re waiting on additional guidance from the FAA, which we expect in the first quarter of next year, to determine which proposals/plans we’d pursue,” Cintron said.

Related: How will Florida spend the billions Congress approved for infrastructure?

St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport is likely to put its grant toward new taxiways at the adjacent former Airco golf course site, said spokesperson Michele Routh. Design for that project is expected to be complete next year.

Across the state, the largest initial batches of infrastructure funding went to Orlando International Airport ($44 million), Miami International Airport ($42.5 million) and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport ($32.8 million).

The infrastructure funding is the latest batch of federal aid granted to America’s airports since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Over three pandemic relief packages, Tampa Bay’s airports received $244.6 million to help combat the pandemic’s impacts on the air travel industry.

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Related: Tampa Bay's gotten $38.7 billion in federal pandemic relief. Here's a breakdown.