St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport making progress on projects

St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport has a number of improvement projects underway, including reconstruction of parking and internal roadways. Travelers are urged to allow more time when using the airport and to get a ride if possible.

CLEARWATER — The fall edition of Fly2Pie News includes project updates, as well as information holiday travelers should know if they’re planning to go to St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport.

A number of projects have been ongoing at the airport, call letters PIE, including a new in-line checked baggage inspection system that is now ready to go. The $12.5 million project allows Transportation Security Administration officers to screen and inspect baggage at a faster rate. It includes two Explosive Detection Systems and a system of conveyors that allows for screening of more than 1,300 bags an hour.

“This will be a very welcome addition as we enter the busy holiday season and allow for faster processing of checked bags,” said Airport Director Tom Jewsbury.

However, those using the airport, especially during the holidays, should be aware that the ongoing parking and internal roadway project is continuing to affect traffic flow.

“We are currently in the most challenging phase of the project that requires the temporary closures of the terminal curbside and short-term parking area,” Jewsbury said. “We urge our customers to allow extra travel time.”

Only active loading and unloading is allowed curbside. Family and friends, as well as Uber and Lyft can pick-up or drop-off passengers at the curbside location. Other ground transportation, including taxis, hotel shuttles, off-site rental cars and economy parking lot shuttles operate from the ground transportation lot at the end of the baggage claim area.

Parking is currently limited at the airport. Customers are urged to get a ride to PIE as officials anticipate that all parking lots will reach capacity during the busy holiday travel season.

The $16 million project to reconstruct the landside area of the airport began in December 2017. It is scheduled to be finished by February 2020. It will provide more than 1,156 parking spaces for short- and long-term parking and 224 spaces for rental cars. Adding in the two economy parking lots (Key Lime and Strawberry) and the cell phone waiting lot, the airport will soon have 3,096 spaces.

For the latest parking information, visit www.fly2pie.com/directions-parking/parking-information.

Travelers also should know that the food/beverage and news/gifts concessions are under renovation by a new master concessionaire, Hudson SSP. Soon, the airport will have new concessions, including Dunkin’ Donuts, Mazzaro’s Italian Market, 3 Daughters brewing, and News & Gifts by Hudson. The new concessions should be available in 2020.

In addition, Allegiant Air check-in is now located in Ticketing A. Sunwing and Sun Country airlines operate in Ticketing B. Travelers with a boarding pass with carry-on luggage only can check the flight information monitors to determine their departure gate where they should check in. There are two TSA checkpoints — Gates 2-6 and Gates 7-11.

Jewsbury reported that the new federal inspection service facility, “Customs,” is almost finished, which will allow the airport to expand its international air service.

The next big project on the airport’s list is rehabilitation of Runway 18-36. The project includes rehabilitation of the asphalt pavement and installation of new edge lighting. The work is expected to be done by spring 2021.

Cost is $24.1 million and will be paid for with grant funds from the Federal Aviation Administration and Florida Department of Transportation. The airport will pay $3.43 million.

Looking to the future, the airport’s master plan study, which started in the fall of 2017, should be finished by December. Plans call for presenting it to Pinellas County commissioners in early 2020. Draft versions are available at www.piemasterplan.com.

Dogs at the airport

Don’t be surprised if you see dogs at the airport. PIE has a new Pets Uplifting People therapy dog program, which provides dogs to greet passengers waiting to board flights.

In addition, the five chapters of Southeastern Guide Dogs in Pinellas use the airport for puppies-in-training and their handlers. Most recently, a group of 30 was at the airport on Nov. 12 learning what is it like to travel from check in, through screening and then finally boarding an aircraft.

PIE is located at 14700 Terminal Blvd., Clearwater. Call 727-453-7800, email info@fly2pie.com or visit www.fly2pie.com.

Suzette Porter is TBN’s Pinellas County editor. She can be reached at sporter@tbnweekly.com.