DMJM Pilots Airport Expansion Toward On-Time Arrival

Tue July 06, 2004 - Southeast Edition
Brenda Ruggiero

A $438 million project at Southwest Florida International Airport is well under way and on schedule for its planned opening next spring.

The project, directed by DMJM Aviation of Tampa, involves the construction of the Midfield Terminal Complex and covers 1,200 acres (485.6 ha). The contract includes a 790,000-sq.-ft. (73,393 sq m), two-level terminal building, a new taxiway south of the existing runway, southern access to I-75, and an off-site mitigation park that will preserve 7,000 acres (2,833 ha) of environmentally sensitive land.

The terminal will include 28 aircraft gates along three concourses. This replaces the existing 17-gate terminal, which was built in 1983. The new terminal is designed to be expanded as needed and can accommodate an eventual 65 gates. A dual-roadway system will allow departing passengers to be dropped at the upper-level curb and arriving passengers to be picked up at the lower level. In addition, a three-story parking garage directly across from the terminal will house rental car facilities and two floors of parking.

“It’s exciting to be building one of the only from-the-ground-up airport terminals in the world today,” said Joe Glowacki, DMJM Aviation construction manager. “Coordinating hundreds of workers to keep the project on schedule is the biggest challenge. On any given day, there may be from 600 to 800 workers on site, and typically different subcontractors are working side by side. We’ve divided the project into zones, which has worked well. The other keys have been constant communication and making safety practices a top priority.”

Laurel Smith of Gravina, Smith & Matte Marketing and Public Relations, the firm that represents DMJM Aviation, noted that another challenge was redesigning the project to accommodate post-9/11 security equipment and procedures. This took place in April 2003, and involved adding $52 million to the projected cost of the complex.

Modifications were required to accommodate new passenger- and baggage-screening procedures mandated by the Transportation Security Administration after the original design was completed. These modifications included a more complex baggage-handling system, expansion of the terminal by 27,000-sq.-ft. (2,508 sq m) to accommodate the new system, more space for passenger-screening checkpoints and wider corridors leading to those checkpoints and operation and administrative space.

“Smith noted that it also was a challenge to work around the weather in southwest Florida and to close the airport’s single runway for night work to connect the runway to the new taxiway that will serve the new terminal.

The project is being funded with grants from the Federal Aviation Administration and the Florida Department of Transportation as well as airline rents and fees and other airport revenue, including bonds.

The terminal will include metal roofs, keystone, wood and natural colors. High ceilings, walls of glass and clerestory windows will allow natural light to flood the terminal.

The project will include 3.5 million cu. yds. (2.7 million cu m) of excavation and embankment material, 371 acres (1.5 ha) of pavement, 265,000 sq. ft. (24,619 sq m) of terrazzo, 103,500 sq. ft. (9,616 sq m) of carpet, 92,500 linear ft. (28,194 m) of new drainage pipe and 10.5 mi. (16.8 km) of new roads.

The equipment list includes several excavators and loaders, Cat rollers, several graders, several John Deere dozers, a Cat dozer and and water trucks.

Southwest Florida International Airport opened in May 1983. The original plan projected that the airport would reach its capacity of 3 million passengers by 1995, but the number was actually reached seven years earlier in 1988. The airport has reportedly served more than 5 million passengers annually since 2000, and the new terminal will have the capacity for 10 million passengers annually.