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VIDEO: Completion of Phase One of Airport Expansion in Fort Myers, Fla., Delayed One Year

Tue April 02, 2024 - Southeast Edition #8
Naples Daily News

In October 2021, construction began on the first phase of a terminal expansion at Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW) in Fort Myers.

The project involves the remodeling of 164,000 sq. ft. of space, along with the addition of another 117,000 sq. ft. of new walkways and space for concessionaires, including local eateries, the Naples Daily News reported March 31.

With a price tag of $331 million, it represents the second-largest public works project in Lee County's history. The largest was RSW's Midfield terminal, completed in 2005, which replaced a smaller complex, and added more gates to accommodate a growing number of passengers in a new location at a cost of $438 million.

When completed, the latest terminal expansion effort will allow passengers to walk between the airport's concourses.

"The current project is much more complex as it is happening in a building that has thousands of employees working each day and tens of thousands of passengers traveling," Steven Hennigan, the interim director for the Lee County Port Authority (LCPA), the airport's operator, told the Daily News.

He also shared a few tidbits about the status of the project, which has hit some snags.

When asked how far along is the RSW terminal expansion project, Hennigan said, "Large structural work has been temporarily paused; however, other work in the terminal building is continuing."

He added that several primary obstacles could potentially keep the effort from finishing on time.

"According to our construction manager, initial delays occurred due to several issues, including materials supply and labor shortages as well as [2022's] Hurricane Ian impacting regional construction demand," Hennigan explained. "There are some design challenges that need to be addressed and we are working through these challenges with our two business partners to find improvements and enhancements to the final project."

As a result, the current timeline for Phase 1 of RSW's terminal completion is now estimated to be in late 2025 — one year later than planned — but a firm date has not yet been determined, he noted.

Second Phase Slated to Be Finished in 2027

In summing up how the expansion will benefit the airport's passengers, Victoria Moreland, the chief communications and marketing officer for the LCPA, said it would provide "bright open spaces, natural light, soaring ceilings, a business lounge and new concessions programs with more technology and representation of local brands like Ford's Garage and Fort Myers Brewing as well as national brands like Chick-Fil-A."

Additionally, the RSW terminal project will also create a single Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoint to replace the three that are in the current facility.

"These upgrades and amenities will reflect the sense of place that we want for our visitors and residents to enjoy when they experience their first or last impression of Southwest Florida at the airport," Moreland added.

The project is being funded with grants from the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), Passenger Facility Charges (PFCs) — levied at all public agency-controlled commercial airports in the United States — as well as airport revenue bonds and Lee County Port Authority construction funds.

No property taxes are used for airport operations or construction, the Daily News reported.

The planned second phase of the airport's terminal expansion is estimated to cost more than $800 million and add a new Concourse E with 14 more gates, Hennigan said, "to meet the future air transportation needs of the region."

That effort is currently targeted for completion in 2027.

Fifteen airlines currently serve Southwest Florida International, one of the top 50 U.S. airports for passenger traffic.

In 2023, the popular airport processed just over 10.06 million passengers. While that figure was down 2.6 percent from an all-time high of 10.3 million in 2022, forecasts predict RSW will see about 12 million travelers by 2026.

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