Phase II of Tampa International Airport master plan introduced

- Anyone who has flown through Tampa International Airport lately has seen a lot of changes; dozens of new restaurants and shops and plenty of construction.

Now we're seeing what's next for the airport's $2.3 billion master plan.

Airport officials presented Phase II to the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority Tuesday. The $543 million proposal includes a 17-acre commercial development with an 8-story office building, hotel, convenience store and gas station.

Phase II also includes a commercial curb to accommodate transit and other ground transportation, as well as connections to regional trail networks.

And if you're not a fan of that curbside congestion, relief is in sight.

"We are actually going to introduce express curbside lanes," said Tampa International Airport CEO Joseph Lopano. "If you have your boarding pass already and you're not going to check in any bags, you can use the express lane, jump out of the car, and you can come right up here to transfer level and go right out to your plane."

If Phase II is cleared for takeoff, commercial development would begin in mid-2018, with curbside construction starting in late 2019 and ending in 2023.

"The community's growing, the city's growing, the whole state is growing," Lopano said. "We need to stay ahead of it and keep pace with that growth."

Within the first phase, the airport has added 28 out of 69 new restaurants and retailers. New restaurants like local favorites Goody Goody and Ulele mix with national eateries like Hard Rock Cafe and P.F. Chang's.

Phase III will bring a new Airside D with international and domestic gates and international passenger processing facilities.

However, that is not scheduled to begin until after 2020.

All three phases of the master plan will allow Tampa International to serve 34 million passengers each year, which is nearly double its current passenger volume.

Those who've not seen the airport in years said they're already enjoying the first-class upgrades.

"It's a big improvement," said Peter Hackbart. "With all the concrete you see and new roads, I mean, it's amazing."

"It's amazing. It's unbelievable. We didn't even recognize it when we came," said Mary Anne Hackbart. "It was a better airport in the country to begin with. It's going to be super when it's done."

If you want to learn more about the master plan, the airport is hosting an open house. It's scheduled for April 27 in the airport boardroom. 

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