Tampa International Airport is the latest major U.S. commercial aviation facility to curb its capital construction program because of coronavirus-related travel declines, announcing on June 3 that it plans to defer or cancel approximately $900 million in projects over the next four to five years.
The biggest casualty is the delayed construction of Airside D, a $690-million, 16-gate terminal for domestic and international flights that was set to enter the design phase next March and start operation in 2024. Instead, the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority plans to reexamine the airport’s passenger traffic forecast in 2021 with an eye toward starting facility construction in 2025.
As the final major component of a three-phase, $2-billion expansion plan largely funded by airport revenue bonds, Airside D would have brought Tampa’s capacity to 34 million passengers, a 50% increase over its 2019 volume. With the sharp drop-off in air travel caused by COVID-19, the airport currently handles only a handful of passengers daily.
In a statement, Airport CEO Joe Lopano credited plan flexibility for enabling the authority to quickly adapt to the pandemic’s unforeseen impacts.
“It was a smart approach that is now serving us well as we recalibrate our budget and our expectations for the next few years,” Lopano said. “We will very much see a need for Airside D in our future and we’re thankful we have the flexibility to build it when the time is right.”
Approximately $150 million worth of projects currently underway at Tampa are unaffected by the cuts, with many accelerated by several weeks due to fewer passengers.
Longer shifts, more daytime work and the ability to implement extended closures have helped advance the widening of the main passenger terminal’s main access road, the addition of eight express curbside check-in areas, a new central utility plant and construction of a new checked baggage system. A project to install a new security system has likewise gained six weeks of schedule time, with workers able to take six jet bridges out of service at a time.