After three years, the first leg of one of the biggest construction projects was unveiled Wednesday at Tampa International Airport.
"We did it! We did it!" exclaimed airport CEO Joe Lopano, as he helped cut the ribbon alongside Governor Rick Scott on the SkyConnect train. It connects the Main Terminal and the new Rental Car Center, built on the periphery of the airport.
"This project is worthy of our history, and will be admired just as we admire the designs from the past," he said, hearkening back to the airport's groundbreaking hub-and-spoke design when the existing terminal first opened in the early 1970s.
Scott said Florida recently became the second highest state in the country for total airline passenger traffic - in part because of a $1 billion investment of state funding to airports.
"If you look around, this is beautiful. This is a world-class facility that this community and this state can be proud of for a long time to come," he said.
The one-and-a-half mile ride on sleek rail cars takes about five minutes. Moving the airport's car rental businesses freed about 2,000 spaces in the parking garage that's perched on top of the terminal.
Here's more from a news release from the airport:
Since TPA broke ground in late 2014, more than 10,700 people have logged more than 5.7 million hours on the project. Approximately 600 companies have worked on the job. Of those, about 90 percent are based in Florida or have regional offices in the state and nearly 200 are women, minority or disadvantaged business enterprises.
The people-mover system and Rental Car Center help decongest the Airport’s roadways and curbsides by removing 2.7-million vehicles from the roads each year. The center is designed to seamlessly connect to the region’s transportation network.
It is home to 16 rental car brands and brings new efficiencies with fueling, car washing and vehicle maintenance services all located at the same location for the first time. This allows passengers to get in and out more rapidly, especially during peak passenger times.
All passengers will have access to kiosks for boarding passes and checking bags at the Rental Car Center.
With Phase 1 coming to a close, the Airport is ramping up on Phase 2, which includes the construction of new curbsides, a commercial development area and supporting projects. Phase 3 will include the construction of a new airside with additional gates.
Once all three phases are complete, the Airport will have the ability to serve 34 million annual passengers.