New Tampa International Airport SkyConnect system makes debut

By Jason Lanning , Reporter
Last Updated: Wednesday, February 14, 2018, 12:14 PM EST

Tampa International Airport unveiled its new car rental center and SkyConnect train on Wednesday. 

  • SkyConnect links Main Terminal to Rental Car Center, Economy Garage
  • Ride takes less than 5 minutes
  • Construction on Phase 2 of improvements to begin soon
  • Previous stories on SkyConnect

The SkyConnect system connects the main TIA terminal to the rental car facility, as well as the new long-term economy parking lot. The project has been in the works since 2014. Today, Phase 1 is complete. 

The new facility has a big entrance on the second floor of the landside terminal by the Hard Rock Cafe. There is plenty of room at the train boarding area and the 1.4-mile ride to the rental car station is a smooth one despite traveling at 50 mph on its loop.

New singnage has been placed throughout the airport to guide travelers to the tram and to the new set up for car rentals and parking. 

"All of our new signs will help our passengers figure out where to go," said Danny Valentine with TIA. "So in addition to signage we have customer service representatives strategically located so we are going to be all over the place helping people to transition smoothly to the new operations."

Airport officials say the SkyConnect system also will decrease airport traffic. 

Thousands of people come into the main terminal daily for parking and to pick up rental cars. Hundreds of buses also make back and forth trips into the terminal. 

All of that traffic will now travel to the remote location now south of the main terminal. 

With Phase 1 wrapping up, the Airport will be ramping up Phase 2, which includes the construction of new curbsides and a commercial development area. Phase 3 will include the construction of a new airside with additional gates.

Once it's all finished, the Airport will have the ability to serve 34 million passengers a year.  

The massive airport redevelopment project comes with a $953-million price tag.