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"Tampa airport's master plan to include space for rail lines"

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Tampa airport's master plan to include space for rail lines
The Tampa (FL) Tribune 

TAMPA -- Tampa International Airport officials will study the best use for
airport real estate in a master plan update to be launched next month that
includes prospects for linking a bus transfer center with light- and
high-speed rail lines.

Other plan elements will include space on the airport's east side for new
firms that could refurbish landing gear and aircraft seats from airliners
flown in for heavy maintenance at two hangars where Pemco employs 600
aircraft technicians.

That could create additional Tampa jobs for work currently shipped out of
state, airport chief executive Joe Lopano said today in a briefing for Tampa
Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority board members.

It's one of an ongoing series of sessions with local groups that will evolve
into gathering broad input early next year to lead to the master plan update
by December 2012.

"Tampa International Airport needs to be the gateway for Tampa Bay, not just
Tampa," Lopano said.

The airport draws 33.6 percent of its passengers from Hillsborough County,
31.5 percent from Pinellas, and 28.8 percent from Pasco, Hernando, Manatee
and Sarasota counties along with the remaining 6.1 percent from beyond, a
2007 study found.

Those passenger patterns and Lopano's strategy to ensure airlines understand
the region has the population, economic and business base to support more
flights, in particular to international destinations, makes transportation a
key element of the airport's future.

Lopano said Tampa International has 3,700 acres compared with 18,000 at
Dallas/Fort Worth International, where he worked before coming here in

"We could hide mistakes (in land use) there, not here," Lopano said

In reality, the Texas airport has state-of-the-art transit, including
commuter rail, bus and van service to Dallas and Fort Worth, and a
double-rail, bi-directional "Skylink" airport train system to link five
terminals with minimal travel time.

Lopano said an "intra-modal and multi-modal center" for bus and rail at
Tampa International might be located near the economy parking garage with
trams linking the main terminal.

That's rather than using the original site for a bus transfer center on
aviation authority property at Spruce and O'Brien streets. Airport and
Hillsborough Area Regional Transportation Authority officials are
negotiating who should pay for about $82,000 spent on those plans that
appear to be moot.

While plans for light- and high-speed rail also are moot given the
prevailing political sentiment in the state and Hillsborough County,
officials want to ensure proper space for all types of transportation is
available if public sentiment changes.

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