TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Tampa International Airport’s new, $1 billion people mover and remote rental car facility is running four months behind schedule, due to a number of unforeseen snags and construction mishaps.
“Yup, a variety of issues and challenges that you would expect on a project of this size,” said TIA Facilities Manager Al Illustrato.
Construction managers may have expected “speed bumps,” as Illustrato calls them, but some of the troubles holding up that massive project certainly caught the 400 contracting firms and 2,000 construction workers by surprise.
For starters, TIA passengers kept getting in the way, so construction crews had to stop work from time-to-time to make way for travelers. Then, workers discovered storm drains near the people mover station at the main terminal and had to stop and redesign the foundation.
Then, there was the pesky soil problem discovered under one of the planned columns supporting the 1.4 mile-long people mover that connects the remote economy parking garage and rental car facility with the main terminal.
Contractors had to re-design the foundation to keep it from sinking before constructing that column, which engineers insist will not sink now.
“Absolutely not,” Illustrato said.
Perhaps, the most obvious problem involves the station platform at the new economy parking garage. It was bowed upward due to too much “camber” in the pre-tensioned beam under the station platform that would have created a tripping hazard for passengers stepping off of the trains.
“When the beam deflected downward, it didn’t do it quite enough, which left the station platform little bit higher than it needed to be to meet the door threshold for the people mover,” Illustrato said.
Project workers are now in the process of grinding down the concrete platform to make it flush with the trains that will someday deliver passengers to economy parking.
Ilustrato insists that nearly all of the costs for the “speed bumps” will be borne by project contractors and not the public. Florida taxpayers are funding $194 million for the project and the rest, an estimated $778 million, will be paid by bonds supported with user fees tacked onto passenger tickets and car rentals.
“We may have some minor costs along the way that we’ll have to cover in our contingency, but we expect the vast majority to be borne by our design builders…not the public,” Illustrato said.
The original schedule called for the new remote car rental facility to open in October, in time for Thanksgiving and Christmas season travel. TIA project managers will now have to settle for a grand opening just before the travel crunch during Spring Break 2018, but they still see the glass as half full.
“We have had phenomenal progress on this billion dollar program,” Illustrato said.
Better warn Aunt Martha and the rest of your distant relatives now. Unless they’re willing to postpone their annual Tampa visit until the college students start pouring in, they’ll have to pardon our dust at TIA another year longer. On the bright side, at least they won’t trip getting off the tram.
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