Moving Walkways Replace Decades-Old Monorail at Tampa Int’l

Moving Walkways Replace Decades-Old Monorail at Tampa Int’l
Ken Wysocky
Published in: 

Guests at Tampa International Airport (TPA) can now use a series of moving walkways to quickly travel through the long-term parking garage to the adjacent main terminal, and vice versa. For those who don’t want to use the new automated option, TPA also created a dedicated walking path next to the moving walkways, complete with overhead lighting and improved wayfinding signage.

The walkways essentially replace a monorail that used to travel in a loop between the long-term garage and the airport’s short-term garage, located just above the terminal. The monorail tracks were located three levels above, where the walkways now stand.

The airport added 12 moving walkways configured in six pairs with lanes flowing in opposite directions. Individual walkways vary in length from 86 to 133 feet and are divided into sections—three pairs on the west end, three on the east—to avoid crossing any area with vehicle traffic.

The project cost about $30.4 million, including removal of the monorail system, which was built in 1991.


Project: Moving Walkways

Location: Tampa (FL) Int’l Airport

Purpose: Increase convenience for customers parking in long-term garage

Walkway Manufacturer: Schindler Elevator

Speed: 100 ft./min. 

Capacity: Up to 6,000 people/hour

Airport Owner/Operator: Hillsborough County Aviation Authority

2023 Passengers: About 23.9 million

Project Cost: $30.4 million

Funding: Airport-issued bonds

Number of Walkways: 12

Configuration: 6 pairs of walkways with lanes flowing in opposite directions

Span of Lengths: 86-133 ft.

Installation of Walkways: Oct. 2021-June 2023

Monorail Demolition: Aug. 2022-Feb. 2024

General Contractor: Manhattan Construction Co.

Engineering Consultant: C&S Companies

Key Benefits: Customer convenience; eliminates time spent waiting for monorail train to arrive; monorail demolition frees up room for about 524 more parking spaces

Jeff McAtee, senior construction project manager at TPA, notes that the monorail was not only old, it was also underutilized and no longer an efficient way to get around. “It was a slow-moving system that lost its relevancy, and passengers were finding it was faster to walk from the long-term parking garage to the main terminal.”

Furthermore, repair parts were getting harder to find.

“But we still wanted to supply an enhanced level of service for our guests,” McAtee continues. “So now, instead of waiting for a few minutes for the monorail to arrive, guests can just get on the moving walkways, which take them right to the main entrance of the terminal.”

The walkways travel a speed of 100 feet per minute and can move about 6,000 people each hour. By contrast, the monorail was designed to carry 800 passengers per hour.

Non-Standard Design

Manufactured by Schindler Elevator, TPA’s new moving walkways are a bit unusual because they are “pitless” Typically, such systems are installed at or near ground level, with their mechanical equipment situated below grade. But due to the way the long-term garage was constructed, it wasn’t possible for crews to cut into the concrete deck and bury the walkway mechanicals.

So TPA’s walkways sit atop the existing concrete slab, with gradual ramps at both ends to ease the roughly 15-inch height transition. The concrete was reinforced with steel beams to accommodate the extra weight, he says.

Installation started in October 2021 and ended in June 2023. The project originally was scheduled for completion in December 2022, but pandemic-related manufacturing disruptions added about six months to the schedule.

During construction, customers were still able to walk through the long-term parking garage to reach the main terminal. “We had it all well-signed to make sure passengers could easily follow a path to the terminal,” says McAtee.

C&S Companies was the design/engineering consultant for the project. The general contractor was Manhattan Construction Co.

Bonus Benefit

Replacing the monorail system boosted service. Removing it yielded yet another valuable benefit: room for additional parking spaces. And that is no small matter at airports like TPA that have limited space to build more parking structures.

The airport will gain an estimated 384 spaces in its long-term garage, which had 8,478 before the project, and about 140 spaces in the short-term garage, which already had 3,575.

“Adding that many parking spaces will be a huge benefit for us,” McAtee comments.

Not all of the new spaces are available at the moment, because one floor and half of another floor in the short-term garage are closed until crews finish deck repairs associated with removing the monorail.

Operating without those parking spaces poses a challenge, especially during the holidays. But the project team reduced construction activity as much as possible during the 2021, 2022 and 2023 holiday seasons to maximize the available spaces.

“Sometimes we just have to get creative and park vehicles wherever we can find space, including in overflow lots not normally used for public parking,” McAtee shares. “From there, we bus passengers to the terminal.”

The airport recently gained more than 2,000 parking spaces on the first two floors of the long-term garage when it relocated rental car operations elsewhere.

Surgical Removal

Demolition of the 3,200-foot-long monorail system started in August 2022 and concluded this past February. The work included cutting up six passenger cars into manageable chunks. This was a large project in and of itself because the cars were about 7 feet wide and 26½ feet long, with seating for up to 17 passengers.

Crews also removed the monorail’s “pinched loop” track that resided on an elevated slab of concrete in the short-term parking ramp, plus all of the structural beams that supported the slab. The elevated slab in the long-term garage did not have to be removed.

Carl Giovenco, the project director from Manhattan Construction, describes the demolition process as surgical in nature.

“We call it selective demolition, because it’s not like tearing down a building and leaving an empty space,” says Giovenco. “You’re going into an occupied and elevated structure and have to be very careful and intentional about what you take apart and what you need to leave alone.

“We really had to lean on our structural engineers to make sure we did things in the right order and left structural supports alone, while at the same time not hampering the building’s functions.”

Logistical Challenges

Removing the associated debris also required extra thought. It wasn’t possible to station large dumpsters on the garage levels undergoing demolition work, so crews removed pre-cast panels at the south end of the garage and built a chute that carried debris to dumpsters on the ground floor.

“We had people stationed down on the ground to keep things clean and safe, and we put up barricades to keep the public from driving too close to that area,” Giovenco reports. “A lot of planning went into figuring out how to remove all the debris from the garage.”

Although demolition of the monorail is complete, substantial work still lies ahead in the short-term garage, primarily replacing a large portion of the parking deck that was removed during demolition of the monorail track. Crews will also apply a floor coating, paint stripes to create parking spaces and install new signage. Giovenco expects work in the short-term garage to be completed by September.

Although the new moving walkways took a little longer to complete than expected, McAtee reports that they have been well received by travelers and were worth the wait.          

“This project demonstrates our continued commitment to be one of the most convenient and easiest airports to travel through,” he says. “We try to set ourselves apart by always focusing on our guests and their experience on our campus.”


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