Tampa International Airport solicits input on its major makeover
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09/20/11 Alessandra Da Pra
WMNF Drive-Time News Tuesday | Listen to this entire show:

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Tampa International Airport will soon undergo a makeover. Once interior design plans are completed, the Aviation Authority hopes TIA will be a more efficient and welcoming pathway between travelers and the Tampa Bay area.

Travelers can expect some changes to come to Tampa International Airport soon. Al Illustrato, vice president of Facilities and Customer Services at TIA, said that construction for a $20 million top-to-bottom modernization of the main terminal is planned to start early next year. There’s already a $10 million ticketing and curbside baggage claim enhancement project underway at the airport.

TIA Community Relations Coordinator Christine Osborn said a blueprint for the new look of the main terminal was discussed during a visioning session held by the Aviation Authority board members and the design team last week.

The modernization project includes all three levels of the main terminal: ticketing, transfer and baggage claim. Airport will have restrooms with “hands-free” technology, tile floors instead of the existing carpeting, a customer outreach center to learn more about TIA, a new chapel, clearer signs, a United Service Organization for the large local military presence and a tourist center to find out about all the events and attractions in the Tampa Bay area.

Although the Main Terminal Modernization will be completed sometime in 2013, some improvements will be finished by next August, just in time for the Republican National Convention. Illustrato pointed at redesign diagrams and said construction will come to a halt and barricades removed during the convention.

For the remaining time, Illustrato said that construction will not bring discomfort to travelers. Students from Everest College in Tampa are conducting a survey at the airport, asking leisure and business travelers for their input into the renovation project. Survey questions span from what areas of TIA could use improvement to what folks associate the most with the Tampa Bay area. Stephanie Collins is one of these students.

Last Saturday, members of the redesign team asked airport customers for their input on the modernization project. They were stationed on the transfer level of the Main Terminal where the public was invited to learn more about the modernization project and offer suggestions for the renovation.

That was Chris Altman from Brandon. He had conducted a survey on the economic impact of TIA on the community when he was a MBA student at the University of South Florida in 1979. He said that he has had a passion for TIA since its beginning in 1971 and is enthusiastic about the upcoming changes. Yet, other people, like Judson Sanderson from Manatee County, feel that the main terminal makeover may be a waste of money.

Last week TIA announced it would start offering twice a week direct flights to Zurich, Switzerland. Which Illustrato said would help the economy of Tampa Bay.

*Note: this is an extended version of the story we aired on the newscast.

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