15:41 PM

New shuttles coming to two Airsides at TPA

Refurbished guideways and sleek, modern cars will update the longtime shuttles at Airsides A and C, which are being replaced after many years of service.

Airside shuttle red canopy

While the busy Spring Break season is drawing to a close, Tampa International Airport’s improvement plans will keep rolling down the track with very visible upgrades to two sets of Airside shuttles.

The red and blue cars carrying travelers to and from Airsides A and C have been in operation since the 1990s and are due to be replaced. The concrete guideways, or tracks, the shuttles use to roll to the Airsides also are ready for refurbishment.

“These vehicles, which are built to operate continuously, have run for more than one million miles and served us well over the years,” said Matthew Deloatche, TPA Senior Project Director for Planning & Development. “Now it’s time to refresh this integral part of the TPA experience for all our passengers.”

Since thousands of people still need to reach their gates at each Airside every day, the Airport can’t just shut the shuttles down entirely.

That’s why guests will notice over the next few weeks that Airside A and Airside C will be temporarily switching to a single-shuttle operation as crews work on upgrades.

At first, the work will happen overnight, between 8 p.m. and 4 a.m. Monday through Friday starting in mid-April.

During that time, crews will be replacing bearing pads, which act as shock absorbers under the guideways’ steel supports. The work will begin on the blue shuttles at each Airside, then switch to the red shuttles.

Airside shuttle blue towerMeanwhile, temporary canopies are being installed over the walkways between the shuttles at both Airsides. In the event of an emergency or required maintenance on the operating shuttles, these canopies will cover the path and separate walkers from the shuttle guideways with safety mesh, should guests need to walk between an Airside and the Main Terminal.

Then in May, the real changes begin.

The single-lane operation will go into effect full-time as crews remove and replace the concrete guideways entirely, one lane at a time, at both Airside A and C. The new concrete guideways will be ready by the time the new shuttle cars start arriving.

Customer service representatives will be stationed at both ends of the shuttles at peak travel times to help direct guests while shuttles are limited to a single lane.

The shuttles themselves will be a major update of what passengers have been using since Bill Clinton was president. The Alstom APM-300R is TPA’s third generation of shuttle car from the same company that manufactured the original shuttles the Airport used starting in 1971.

The new shuttles will have a familiar layout, but will boast modern aesthetics complementary to TPA’s SkyConnect train. They will retain the benches at the front and rear of each car, but replace the carpets with resilient flooring. Each doorway will feature an overhead dynamic display screen.

“The shuttles will benefit from a three-decade jump in technology, with all new guidance systems and mechanics. How they operate is new, but for guests, the experience will be seamless,” Deloatche said.

Pairs of new shuttle cars are due to begin arriving from Alstom’s Pittsburgh factory in Fall 2024, and will be lifted onto the guideways with a crane after the old shuttles are removed. All four pairs are scheduled to be operational by Spring 2025.

The guideway rehabilitation and shuttle car replacement, which includes design and running surfaces, plus eight cars with their controls and signaling systems, is budgeted to cost $61 million. It is being funded with bonds and state grants.

The Hillsborough County Aviation Authority Board of Directors approved the shuttle replacement in October 2021. Car engineering and manufacturing takes about three years; replacement cars for Airside E and the soon-to-be built Airside D, scheduled to be open to passengers in early 2028, have already been ordered.

Airside F, which has the newest cars of all the airsides, is due to get new shuttles in the future.

By the end of the decade, all of the shuttles from the Main Terminal will be replaced – and ready for another million miles.

Click below to see renderings of the new shuttle cars: