New SRQ air traffic control tower to improve safety, open up economic development opportunities
Rick Piccolo called the new 128-foot air traffic control tower at Sarasota Bradenton International Airport an example of what can be achieved with “collaboration and cooperation.”
Piccolo, president and chief executive officer of SRQ, said planning for the new $25 million tower started in 2007 and required what seemed like thousands of meetings with federal and state agencies to make it a reality.
In addition to a new tower that enhances air traffic controllers’ ability to provide the safest, most-efficient service to flights at the increasingly busy airport, it will allow the development of 92 acres of airport property to create jobs and enhance the airport’s financial position.
Traffic was up 25.5 percent in August, year over year at SRQ, Piccolo said.
Piccolo made his comments Monday during the formal dedication of the tower, which went into operation in June.
“The hardest part was securing adequate funding to get the job done,” Piccolo said.
Ultimately, the tower was funded by the Federal Aviation Administration, the Sarasota Manatee Airport Authority and the Florida Department of Transportation, and was built without tapping into local property taxes. The airport authority contributed $8.9 million to the project, while the FAA contributed $7.2 million, and FDOT $8.7 million.
“This project continues the policy of the airport authority to improve the safety and facilities of SRQ while enabling the airport to enhance its financial stability and increase the economic impact and jobs generated by this airport. I think it’s noteworthy that this $25 million project was completed with zero debt,” said Bob Spencer, chairman of the airport authority.
SRQ now provides direct flights to 17 cities, Spencer said.
Michael O’Harra, regional administrator for the FAA Southern Region, attended Monday’s dedication.
“The new facility will provide our controllers with greater visibility of the airfield and our investment in technology will enhance their ability to provide safe and efficient air traffic services for the Sarasota-Bradenton community,” O’Harra said.
The facility also includes a 9,000-square-foot base building that houses equipment, administrative offices and training room.
Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Longboat Key, spoke at Monday’s dedication.
“As dysfunctional as government appears sometimes, it’s nice when something comes together,” he said. “This will take us to a new level of safety.”
Air traffic controllers at SRQ handle flights within a 10-mile radius of the airport and up to 4,000 feet in altitude. In 2017, the airport handled 104,540 takeoffs and landings.
A total of 34 FAA employees work at the tower facility, 20 in air traffic control and 14 in technical operations, which maintains FAA electronics in the tower and on the airfield.
Contractor for the project was Lakewood Ranch-based Halfacre Construction Company.