Master plan aims to overhaul Clearwater-St. Pete airport

- The Clearwater-St. Pete airport is in the beginning stages of creating a master plan as the numbers of passengers and planes multiply.

Demand for the Pinellas County airport is forecast to increase and the number of planes served -including commercial, private, and military - is expected to grow from about 114,000 to 171,000 over the next 20 years.

The number of passengers boarding flights at PIE is expected to nearly triple to 3 million.

"We are almost going to reach capacity so we really need to take a look at what needs to be done," said Airport Director Tom Jewsbury. "Which direction do we go to expand the terminal?"

The first public input session was held Wednesday as the master plan takes shape.

Beyond expanding air services, PIE officials are looking at every aspect of the airport.

They're discussing parking expansions, concessions, upgraded customs, environmental impact, how to pay for it and even if jetways are possible for every gate, given some passengers board now using ramps from the tarmac.

"My 83-year-old mother has a hard time walking to the planes," one passenger said.

The airport passed the 2 million passenger mark for the first time last year, a 50 percent increase from 2004.

Most of the growth is owed to Allegiant, which runs 95 percent of the commercial flights at PIE.

The low-cost airline has been plagued by news stories accusing the airline of safety lapses but the airport expects them to keep adding destinations.

"We are very confident as long as we can keep up with that growth and have the facilities to accommodate them," said Jewsbury.

The airport also says the master plan will include efforts to attract additional airlines.

The master plan is expected to be finalized in mid-2019. More information is available at piemasterplan.com

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