Tampa International Airport held a ribbon-cutting and dedication ceremony on Wednesday for its new SkyConnect people-mover system and rental car center, which open to the public next week.
“This is a great day for Tampa Bay,” TIA chief executive officer Joe Lopano said. “This project is worthy of our history and will be admired just as we admire designs from the past.”
The 1.5-mile SkyConnect system links the main terminal to the economy garage and a new rental car center, which opens Feb. 14.
From one end to the other, the ride takes less than 5 minutes, but Gov. Rick Scott said the economic effects of the project will be felt for years to come.
“It’s making it a place where people want to work. It’s making it a place where people want to come here as tourists,” Gov. Scott said.
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries built the SkyConnect trains at a factory in Japan, and the company’s involvement doesn’t end there.
“They will not only be supplying the trains, they will be contributing to local jobs because they will be maintaining and operating the trains,” said Ken Okaniwa, Consul General of Japan for Florida and head of the Consulate-General of Japan in Miami.
The people-mover system and rental car center are expected to cut down traffic around the airport.
With these elements complete, the first phase of the airport expansion is coming to a close.
“Without these improvements, there would be no more Super Bowls, there would be no college football national championships, there would be no Bollywood. It is this airport that helps people make those decisions,” Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said.
In addition to the new people-mover system and rental car center, the airport has redone its main terminal transfer level, adding four outdoor terraces. The airport also has completed work on many of the 69 new shops and restaurants.
With the first phase of a nearly $1 billion expansion wrapping up, the airport will be ramping up the second phase, which includes the construction of new curbsides and a commercial development area.
Phase 3 will include the construction of a new airside with additional gates.
Once finished, the airport will have the ability to serve 34 million passengers a year.