Known for exceeding passenger expectations, Tampa International Airport consistently ranks among the top airports in the world for customer service and satisfaction. With an increase in both domestic and international passengers over recent years, TPA’s existing rental car facilities were at capacity for current operations, and the airport’s roadways and curbsides had become increasingly congested. To alleviate bottlenecks and provide additional capacity for future growth, TPA selected GS&P to manage the design of a 2.44 million-square-foot consolidated rental car center (ConRAC) and design 1.4 miles of automated people mover (APM) infrastructure, which will connect the airport’s main terminal with the ConRAC and the existing economy parking structures. In addition to architecture and project management services, GS&P is providing interior design services, structural engineering for the elevated APM guideway and maintenance and storage facility, and environmental graphic design services for this first phase of TPA’s master plan.
“The current rental car facilities at TPA’s main terminal cannot accommodate the rental car inventory required during the airport’s peak hours of operation,” explains Grant Clifford, senior vice president of GS&P’s Aviation market. “This has resulted in the constant shuttling of cars between off-site lots and the terminal, generating a significant volume of additional traffic. This in turn has contributed to congestion on the terminal curbsides, which isn’t consistent with an airport known for its high level of customer service. The ConRAC will alleviate these issues by relocating all rental car activity 1.4 miles south of the airport’s main terminal and well away from the current points of congestion, preserving the roadways and curbside for passenger activity.”
The ConRAC design also includes a remote curbside to further remove traffic from the main terminal complex. Additionally, the APM station at the ConRAC has been designed to connect to a future commercial development to the west, and a larger remote curbside is also planned for this location.
“The ultimate goal is to optimize the use of the APM, to reduce traffic, and to preserve the longevity of the main terminal complex as traffic volumes increase at TPA,” notes Clifford.
An Accelerated Design-Build Effort
One of the largest aviation projects in GS&P’s almost 50-year history—and one of the largest in the history of the Tampa Bay Region—the multidisciplinary effort comprised more than four dozen GS&P team members from several divisions working together across five different GS&P office locations. The massive size and complexity of the design-build project also required intense collaboration between TPA, general contractor Austin Constructors, LLC and GS&P.
“GS&P’s long working relationship with TPA, from a ticket-level modernization in the late 1990s to the more recent main terminal modernization in 2012, altogether represents around $250 million of construction work at the airport,” says Clifford. “The ConRAC/APM program alone has a $730 million construction budget. It is a massive program, and we have remained on track for an aggressive completion date in the fall of 2017 since the project began the concept design phase in March 2014.”
One of the keys to the successful delivery of the fast-track project is GS&P’s “One Team” approach, which involves an interactive design process that builds consensus among stakeholders, allowing them to make decisions in a timely manner.
“From the onset, our design-build team of GS&P and Austin Constructors engaged stakeholders from all parties—such as airport leaders and the rental car industry—at every stage of the project,” says senior architect and principal Altan Cekin. “This relationship has helped us to design facilities that will maximize convenience for passengers and provide the airport and the rental car industry with a platform for strong financial performance. Our ‘One Team’ approach has played a vital role in helping us make the right decisions at the right time to stay on track for this compressed three-year construction schedule.”
“The use of building information modeling [BIM] technology has also been vital in allowing the project to be designed and built in such a short time frame,” adds Clifford. “I don’t believe we’d be able to construct something this monumental without it. BIM has facilitated coordination between the design team and subcontractors, and allowed us to detect and eliminate potential conflicts before construction takes place in the field.”
Another factor contributing to speed-to-market is the project’s design-build delivery method.
“Many airports still consider design-build an alternative project delivery method compared to design-bid-build,” says Clifford. “Over the years, GS&P has completed multiple design-build programs at TPA, and this approach has the benefit of allowing the contractor to become a part of the team from day one to help deliver the project on time and on budget.”
Minimizing Impact to Customers and Operations
Given TPA’s well-known reputation for putting the customer first, the multimillion-dollar construction project has been designed from the beginning to minimize the impact on the traveling public.
“This is an extremely complex undertaking that’s being constructed around active areas of the airport,” says Clifford. “The construction site is 1.4 miles long, including the APM system, and it interfaces with the public pretty much every inch of the way. Reducing the impact of construction to customers began during design where we defined site limits and determined how those sites coalesce with roadways. We also identified road closures as well as rerouting options.
“We meet with the aviation authority weekly to share how construction is impacting traffic and what they can anticipate going forward. This enables them to send out updates to their operations staff and the police department so they can help prevent any potential delays, minimizing inconvenience to customers.”
Maintaining airport operations and building systems that are adjacent to construction activities is also critical. Architect Tim Beecken explains:
“When we were designing the project, we identified vital airport operations that could not be disturbed, such as active roadways, economy parking and the baggage system. For example, an underground tunnel below the baggage claim level known as ‘Tug Row’ that delivers baggage to the airside at the terminals was a ‘no-go’ zone, resulting in 120-foot spans of steel.”
Good for the community, Great for the Environment
“This airport is such a beloved piece of the community and they’re incredibly invested in it,” says senior interior designer Jessica Smith. “From an architectural and interior design standpoint, coming up with a design that blends with the existing structures as well as other ongoing projects at the airport is a priority. Our goal is to make sure that everything ties together to create one campus, one facility, one mindset, and one image for the community.”
While allowing for future growth, the massive construction project has already demonstrated its socioeconomic value.
“Coming out of the Great Recession, this program has generated significant economic benefits to the community, including job creation for both the design and construction industries,” says Clifford. “At present, approximately 2,000 workers are on-site daily, and it’s estimated that more than 9,000 design and construction personnel will have worked on this program by the time it’s complete.”
The airport expects 2.7 million fewer vehicle miles traveled on airport roadways once the project opens, which will reduce annual carbon emissions by approximately 1,600 tons. GS&P also designed the ConRAC and APM facilities with sustainability in mind.
“Tampa Electric recently installed a 2-megawatt solar array on the south economy garage roof, which generates enough energy to power 250 homes annually, or roughly the equivalent of the energy needed to power the APM at peak demand,” notes architect Matthew Wilson.
A Win-Win from Every Angle
Addressing the future needs of Tampa International Airport, the new ConRAC and APM will make a substantial and positive impact on traffic circulation, the environment and the overall passenger experience, while extending the life of the main terminal facilities.
“The new ConRAC will provide numerous benefits such as allowing for more on-site rental car companies, which will offer more choices and varied price points for passengers,” notes Clifford. “It will also mean less pollution as far fewer cars will be shuttled between the main terminal and remote service center sites. The APM will minimize the amount of time needed to travel between the ConRAC and the main terminal, making the 4.2-minute journey virtually hassle-free. It will also greatly reduce travel time from economy parking and replace the current shuttle bus operation.
“I’m extremely proud of our team’s efforts, and that our enhancements will not only support the airport’s long-term growth but also their customer-service objectives.”