Passenger traffic way up at SRQ, but with growth comes growing pains

Sarasota Bradenton International Airport, which has seen double digit growth in passenger traffic every month since May, and forecasts a 44 percent increase in January, is having growing pains.

Among them an inadequate fuel farm to supply all the new flights, and the need for more baggage belts to handle passenger luggage.

“These are all growth problems. They are good problems to have,” said Rick Piccolo, president and CEO of the airport, told members of the Sarasota Manatee Airport Authority on Tuesday.

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Negotiations are underway between the four major airlines serving Sarasota Bradenton International Airport and SRQ CEO and president Rick Piccolo. James A. Jones Jr.

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In 2018, SRQ added two new airlines, Allegiant Air and Frontier Airlines, 20 new routes and 15 new destinations.

In addition to the new airlines at SRQ, existing carriers, United Airlines, JetBlue, American Airlines, and Delta Airlines have all announced additional or earlier services.

In response, the airport authority Tuesday approved an increase in the airport’s capital projects budget of $2,075,000 to design and construct a fuel farm expansion and add a blast fence near ground transportation, and begin preliminary planning for the 76-acre Tallevast and 15th Street outparcels.

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Bradenton Herald file photo

Expansion of ticket services is already underway to provide enough ticket positions with direct access to the bag belt system.

The airport board also approved a $1.5 million contract with Magnum Builders of Sarasota to demolish the Jeanne McElmurray Building, and renovate the current Transportation Security Administration space to serve as a new boardroom, expand the police department area, renovate the executive offices, and expand and renovate the badging area.

Tuesday, the airport authority also awarded a $4.4 million construction contract to Wright Construction Group for improvements to 92 acres of undeveloped airport land.

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James A. Jones Jr.

Called the North Quad Development Project, improvements include upgrading Clyde Jones Road, constructing additional roadways within the project area, stormwater management, and extension of water, sewer and electricity to the site.

In addition, the authority approved a request to increase the contract scope of work for a master drainage plan for the North Quad area with an additional cost of $521,215.

With the construction drawings developed for the master drainage plan, SRQ staff would be able to apply for $8 million in grants through the Federal Aviation Administration and Florida Department of Transportation to pay for improvements.

Upon completion of the project, existing ponds at the airport would be reduced in size, reducing the attraction to wildlife, and improving safety for departing and arriving flights. In addition, the airport would be able to move forward with economic development of Quad North.

The airport is debt free and operates without property tax revenue.