Contractors are heading into the final stretch after having taken the first step of Tampa International Airport’s planned, nearly 15-year master plan, completing nearly $1 billion worth of projects that will enable the airport to eventually nearly double capacity. That first step, however, is a doozy.
Programmed at $971 million, the first phase of TIA’s master-planned reconstruction, approved in 2013, adds a $315-million, 2.5-million-sq-ft consolidated rental car center (or CONRAC) as an outpost to the international airport, which still mostly sits upon its original 1971 footprint. A $415-million, 1.4-mile automated people system (APM) will connect the massive CONRAC with an updated main terminal, which is undergoing a $142-million expansion of its transfer level and redevelopment of concessions.
Currently, rental-car operations are crammed in right across the arrivals roadway in the first floor of a parking garage that hugs TIA’s main terminal building. Airport officials say moving those operations out to the CONRAC will remove some 2.7 million cars and buses annually from airport roads and curbsides while adding more than 2,400 long-term parking spaces.
TIA’s current expansion was designed to maximize the airport’s current footprint without adding a second terminal, says Al Illustrato, TIA’s executive vice president for facilities and administration. Instead, the plan decongests the current airport operations—thereby allowing capacity growth—and provides for addition of another airside in the future.
Serving around 19 million passengers annually—and projected to hit a record this year—airport officials believe the planned expansion will provide capacity for up to 34 million passengers per year.
“Building off the design we had before and maximizing it is a win for us, because it’s cheaper to operate one terminal,” Illustrato says. “We have no burning need to build another terminal.”
But TIA did feel a burning need to get started building quickly—and to proceed at a fast pace. The airport opted to deliver the projects via design-build contracts.
“We wanted to put that risk on the designer and builder to get it right,” Illustrato says. “But also to advance the project very quickly. It’s a fast mover.”
Skanska USA Building is design-building the main terminal expansion, for example, and Cone & Graham and AECOM are teamed to deliver a taxiway bridge. Meanwhile, Kimmins Contracting and Atkins are overseeing an additional roadway contract.
The airport’s footprint expansion comes mostly from two pieces: the SkyConnect automated people mover and the CONRAC.
TIA hired Austin Commercial as design-build contractor for both. Austin then hired Archer Western for the automated people mover (APM) contract and Baker Concrete to construct the rental car facility. Groundbreaking for both projects occurred in November 2014.
The incorporation of an APM as the linchpin for expansion builds upon the Tampa airport’s legacy as the first in the world to build and operate such a system when the terminal first opened in the early 1970s.
Those first APM systems ran much shorter distances than the SkyWay Connect emerging today. Roughly 1.4 miles in length, the mostly elevated transportation facility winds out and away from the main terminal building in an S-shaped curve, stopping first at a new economy parking garage before its last stop on the line, the rental car center.
From the main terminal, the APM starts at an elevation of about 100 ft, before dipping underneath a roadway overpass and then rising back up to about 80 ft at the two CONRAC stations, says Dan Seeley, senior construction project manager for TIA. Along the way, cars should reach a speed of more than 35 mph, say airport officials.
Archer Western used cast-in-place concrete for all foundations and superstructure sections. Standard precast Florida I beams make up the majority of the horizontal girders, with rolled structural steel beams comprising sections located “where we didn’t have much flexibility of where we could put the actual columns and bents,” says Tom Skinner, Austin’s project director.
The steel rolled-plate girders were fabricated in Little Rock and trucked into Tampa for just-in-time delivery and erection. Before they left Little Rock, though, the fabricator would bolt together at least three sections to ensure an onsite fit. “That proved to be of great value when they had to set them,” says Skinner. There were 79 steel girders in all, measuring in length from about 43 ft to more than 134 ft and 10 ft deep. The largest weighed 110 tons.
Crews erected the steel girders via dual-pick lifts, utilizing a pair of cranes with capacities of 500 and 600 tons, respectively. “It wasn’t nearly as simple as the straight, precast Florida I beams set bent-to-bent,” Skinner says. In all, contractors executed picks at night for an estimated 30% of the guideway.
Foundation work for both the APM and CONRAC started at approximately the same time, around October 2015. For some of that year since groundbreaking, contractors dealt with the underground utilities running underneath the future facilities, he says.
“Up front, the initial location and then relocation of existing underground utilities was critical and quite painstaking for us,” Skinner says, especially with FAA cables dotting nearly the entire campus. “We took quite a bit of schedule time to locate and then redesign the relocation of all of those things.”
The airport’s relatively tight site posed coordination challenges for setting beams for the APM. The project team used near-daily meetings with airport groups to plan the redirection of traffic circulating in and around the main terminal building and the immediately surrounding parking garage, all when the airport was experiencing a near-record number of passengers.
“It was a great coordination feat between operations and ourselves,” Skinner says.
APM guideway beam setting concluded last November. Currently, crews are focused on completing the three stations, airport officials say.
Building the 2.5-million-sq-ft CONRAC—with 1.9 million sq ft of it elevated—proved just as challenging. The schedule—with a November 2015 start and a November 2016 top-out target—proved the biggest hurdle.
“We were pretty much working around the clock,” says Jim Kelly, project manager for Baker Concrete Construction. The contractor utilized three crews for elevated formwork, each supported by one of three tower cranes working the site. Workers began placing concrete for slabs at 2 a.m. and finished the work by 7 a.m., five days a week.
Typical slab placements would average around 500 cu yd per day, averaging about 2,000 cu yd per week. In all, Kelly estimated the number of crew ranged from 350-400 throughout the course of concrete placement.
Another factor enabling the team to keep on schedule, Kelly says: “We had a full formwork for each floor, which helped the schedule tremendously. To be able to move the material straight up the building instead of across it” proved helpful. The contractor started by building the structure’s most challenging portion first.
“We came right up the front middle, which had the highest area with the customer service building on top,” says Scott Campbell, senior project manager for Austin. The CSB is rental-car central for an estimated 16 firms, located at the last station of the APM line.
Travelers will disembark the APMs and walk to their particular rental car company.
Workforce concerns hovered over the schedule challenge, says Kelly, who called the Tampa CONRAC “one of the most aggressive schedules we’ve done.” Aiding the job was Baker’s ability to bring in workers from around the country.
“We had a lot of coworkers from Texas, Georgia and the Carolinas, as well as Florida,” Kelly says. “With the volume of work that was going on in this area and in South Florida, there was a need to bring in coworkers from other areas.”
Despite the schedule, engineering and construction challenges, both facilities are mostly on target to make their launch dates. Right now, TIA expects the testing of the APM trains to conclude by February 2018.