By: Max Crampton-Thomas
2 min read April 2020 — Prior to the current COVID-19 pandemic that is challenging all sectors of the local economy, the St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport was coming off a record growth year in 2019. Executive Director Thomas Jewbury spoke to Invest: about looking at a slew of new projects to increase its capacity while also looking to attract more traffic via new airlines to the Tampa Bay region.
What construction projects are ongoing at the airport and what impact are they expected to have when completed?
In 2020, we’ll finish our parking renovation project. It will expand long-term parking to accommodate more passengers. We are also focusing attention on the airfield. We have a $20-million project to rehabilitate the pavement surface of our primary runway. We expect to finish that project by the end of the year. We are also doing improvements to the terminal’s apron, replacing some of the asphalt with concrete, and converting an old runway into a taxiway. Those are projects that are underway.
We are also set to complete our airport master plan this year, defining our capital improvement program for the next five, 10 and 20 years. A big focus of that master plan is the future development of the terminal building. The next phase of terminal development will look at ways to increase efficiencies by consolidating the TSA’s passenger screening checkpoints and possibly the ticketing area.
We have a 130-acre undeveloped site that used to be a golf course. We are looking to develop that site for both aeronautical and non-aeronautical use. Before we can break ground, we had to conduct an environmental assessment. We just received approval from the FAA and received a finding of no significant impact. That sets the stage for us to improve our infrastructure. To develop the aeronautical parcels, we need to build new taxiways, which is included in our capital plan.
Among finished projects, we did an upgrade to our security system, and built part of a $4.5 million maintenance facility for our own airport maintenance workers. The facility is located on the airfield, it gives workers direct access and makes our operation more efficient.
In addition to what the airport is doing, Allegiant Air invested $4 million to build a new maintenance/operations facility. They lease their space from the airport.
What economic impact does the airport have on the region?
Over a year ago, we concluded an economic impact study. At that time, we were doing just over 2 million passengers a year. It showed an economic impact on the community of over $1 billion annually. We’ve had several recent meetings with various airlines to try to attract new service. In addition to that, we are working with Allegiant to expand to additional cities, add more capacity and also try to incorporate international service. That is always an ongoing effort.
How does the airport contribute to sustainability in the Clearwater and Tampa Bay Region?
Our master plan has a focus on sustainability. It was important to us that we also championed another master plan that’s on the way, called the Gateway Master Plan. It looks at this area of Pinellas County and how the future infrastructure will be developed, including how other transportation modes will interact with the airport. It also identifies potential areas of the airport that could be converted for other transportation modes. The Gateway Master Plan is being drafted by Forward Pinellas.
What challenges is the transportation industry facing in Florida?
Surface transportation is one of the biggest hurdles. The Florida Department of Transportation is constructing the Gateway Express that will result in an elevated toll road to connect to Interstate 275. It will run in front of our airport. This will provide greater connectivity.
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