Tampa International Airport’s Blue Express Curbsides expansion project was named the 2022 Commercial Service Airport Project of the Year by the Florida Department of Transportation.
The airport reports that the project, which opened in November 2021, is the first of its kind in the United States, speeding up time to and from the gates for passengers without checked baggage. The express lanes are a key part of Phase 2 of the airport’s master plan, which aims to decongest key terminal facilities and enable future capacity.
“Passenger needs and expectations are changing,” TPA CEO Joe Lopano said at the project’s opening. “Our Blue Express sidewalks will better serve our customers and enhance an already seamless experience. In addition to this, we will also make our main terminal more efficient, decongest busy areas and help extend the life of our facilities.”
As part of this project, the lanes will be doubled along the Blue Side for arrivals and departures. Since most passengers do not check baggage, express curbs were considered to allow passengers to get to and from their doors more quickly, bypassing ticketing or baggage claim levels and improving the overall passenger experience. Passengers dropped off at Blue Express curbs take the elevator, escalator or stairs to the main terminal transfer level, where they can take a shuttle bus to the TSA security checkpoint on their airside, eliminating the need to cross the ticket office level.
For arriving travelers, it’s also a short walk from the main terminal to the Blue Express pick-up level, where they meet their driver, bypassing baggage claim altogether. This faster option also facilitates the flow of passenger traffic through TPA and helps alleviate the buildup of long queues at check-in, security, and various other areas of the airport.
The FDOT bestowed this honor on TPA at the Florida Airports Council’s annual conference on Sunday, July 31. The Commercial Service Airport Project of the Year is awarded to a Florida airport that demonstrates “outstanding achievement in aesthetics, safety and service.”
In addition to adding capacity and convenience, the Blue Express Curbsides include architectural features that convey the look and feel of the Tampa Bay area. The roof and lighting represent the ocean, while the abstract artwork depicts native plant life. TPA also commissioned two pieces of public art and included passenger amenities such as oversized chairs with load capacity, restrooms and large walk-through spaces.
Construction is currently underway to make way for eight additional express sidewalks to be added to the red side of the airport as part of the master plan expansion. Red side trims expected to be completed in 2025