Orlando International Airport is to get a new train depot, people mover, parking garage and a renovated airside within five years under a $1.1 billion expansion that airport officials approved on Wednesday.
It also sets the stage for the eventual construction of a second terminal that would cost an additional $1 billion. The terminal would be next to the garage and train station, and a mile south of the existing terminal, which opened in 1980.
The airport board voted unanimously for the project even though the number of passengers at Orlando International is falling for the second year in a row — mostly because more visitors are opting to drive to Central Florida's attractions rather than fly.
However, the airport isn’t rushing to put shovels into the ground just yet. The authority identified two factors, or “triggers,” that need to happen.
First, Orlando International needs to experience six consecutive months of 40 million passengers on a rolling 12-month schedule. Currently, the airport welcomes 35 million annual passengers.
Secondly, the airport needs to see six consecutive months of 2 million arriving international tourists on a rolling 12-month schedule. Data for Orlando’s international arrivals on a 12-month rolling schedule was not available.
Once underway, the project could create up to 10,000 temporary construction and construction-related jobs, based on industry standards. In addition, it could make way for hundreds more in everyday operations.
Also, the expansion will allow Orlando to welcome more flights to the region and increase Central Florida’s visitation and potential spending from tourists.
Airport officials say they are confident a growing number of passengers are on the way because the economy is improving and theme parks are constantly upgrading, including Walt Disney World's planned "Avatar" land at Animal Kingdom, set to open in 2017.
The next two decades, they say, promise steady passenger growth of anywhere from 2.2% to 3.4% annually at OIA, the nation's 13th-busiest airport.
Major elements of the $1.1 billion project include:
Maintaining Current Facilities
- Terminal Ticket Lobby/Baggage $113M
- Baggage Improvements $148M
- Other Terminal Projects $60M
- Airsides 1 & 3 APM $90M
- Airfield Projects $76M
- Ground Transportation/Other $33M
Support Sustainable Growths
- South Airport APM Complex $470M
- Airside 4 International Improvements $114M
- South Terminal TBD
Airport officials say it is crucial to have bigger, better facilities in place. Customer service will drop dramatically, they say, once the yearly passenger count hits 45 million, possibly in 2019. That passenger total is more than 9 million more than last year.
Airport officials say the finance plan includes selling bonds typically repaid during 30 years; grants and loans from the federal and state governments, including $200 million to pay for the train stop; and an extension of a $4.50 fee on every ticket into and out of the airport.
That fee, called the passenger facility charge, can be levied for a variety of airport improvements and would not expire until 2038, if all the construction occurs as proposed.
A new terminal could take five years to complete.
You can see a video of the proposed expansion here
What do you think if this proposed expansion, do you think it is a good thing or are you worried that it will lead to longer wait times to get through immigration.