In 2007, Tampa International Airport officials produced a promotional video showing a light-rail train pulling up to the airport before heading to a new terminal.
By 2011, the recession eliminated the need for a new terminal and voters had defeated a plan for light rail in Tampa. But officials created a new plan for a hub for buses and rental cars on the airport’s south side.
Two years later, airport officials have given up on a new terminal on airport property. The latest plan calls for a transit hub 2˝ miles to the southeast, along Interstate 275 near the West Shore Business District.
Passengers going to or from the airport by bus or light rail would use a “people mover” tram similar to those now serving the outlying terminals.
The concept of a West Shore transportation center is similar in some regards to the Miami Intermodal Center just east of Miami International Airport, which has become a national model for how multiple transportation modes can be linked.
Airports in Philadelphia, Seattle and Providence, R.I., have rail and bus service on-site, and others such as Baltimore require a shuttle from the airport terminal to trains.
Building an off-site transportation hub that would link to the airport could be years away. First, the airport needs to study passenger demand, funding and choose a West Shore site that could serve light rail, buses and taxis, members of the Hillsborough County Metropolitan Planning Organization said.
“Before we move ahead, we need to know the best way to connect destinations and what technologies might be used,” said University of South Florida transportation professor and MPO member Steve Polzin.
West Shore center proponents said they don’t know what kind of transit or transportation technology might be used at the new hub but encouraged the MPO and airport to move ahead with the plan. “Let’s get on with the planning, and let’s get on with the funding,” West Shore Alliance Executive Director Ron Rotella said. “We can’t widen any more roads to West Shore.”
A state-of-the-art West Shore transportation terminal would be accessible from adjacent streets and by ramps from a 44-foot-wide bus or rail median in Interstate 275.