If you’ve been anywhere near the Orlando International Airport lately, you may have noticed the major construction going on around one of the world’s most popular airports, soaring in as the fourteenth most popular airport in the United States (Orlando International Airport-Press).
The Orlando International Airport (MCO), is in fact, expanding. As Orlando continues to become one of the biggest global travel destinations, the current state of the seventy-four year old airport is not enough to keep up with the rise in traffic to The City Beautiful in recent years.
MCO began as a U.S. Army Air Forces facility, with military operations began in 1942 as Orlando Army Air Field #2 (Orlando Airport History). By the 1960s under a new deal, the facility had become a shared space for both military and civilian flights, and by 1976, MCO became a strictly civilian airport and gained its status as an international airport.
With many changes throughout the years, the move to expand this four-runway powerhouse of an airport seems like another step in MCO’s continued efforts to keep up with the changing times.
So what exactly is going on amongst all that construction work, and how is it going to impact the greater Orlando area?
Upon speaking with Mr. Stan Thorton, Chief Operating Officer at Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, and Ms. Carolyn Fennell, the Senior Director of Public Affairs at Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, I was informed of some of the major changes that are coming to MCO, with some of the expected dates of completion for these changes coming as early as the holiday season of 2017 and be operational by 2019. The decision to expand came down to the need to increase the amount of room designated for travelers and terminals, while also making the experience of MCO easier, more technologically advanced, and streamline.
In 2014, MCO saw about 34 million passengers travel through the airport. With the rise in international travelers to MCO, there has become a need to expand international gates, ticket halls, federal inspection stations, ground transportation, and parking garages. Though there will be no new runways, as MCO runways are already conducive to the crosswinds of the area, there will be new taxiways leading from the terminal expansions on to the current runways.
The North Terminal is one of the prime areas for remodeling and expansion, with its capacity being increased from 24 million annual passengers to 45 million annually. The baggage system in this terminal is being replaced, along with an expansion in the ticket lobby to provide greater capacity of passengers. The South Terminal Complex and Intermodal Terminal Facility is expected to gain a 2,400 car garage, along with accommodations for up to four rail systems for the APM trams.
The Automated People Movers, or APM trams, are also getting an update of their own. Because the current trams are thirty-five years old and have roughly 3 million miles on them, there is a need for an update regarding the technology, speed, and efficiency of these trams.
Airside 4 will see not only an increase in the number of international gates to help accommodate for some of the airline industry’s biggest planes, but also an additional cell energy plant for MCO.
As far as the impact on the local area goes, Thorton assured here in O-Town, there will be only positive change on the horizon with this expansion. “We’ll see a relief in congestion of the garages and on the roads. It’ll be much quieter.” Overall, the residents of Orlando, with the airport already being such an easy convenience for residents, will benefit from the more streamlined experience when traveling through MCO.
The approximate completion date for the entirety of this project is from 2021-2023. With the completion of this project on the horizon, it is more than exciting to see something so beneficial to the residents of Orlando being modernized for the greater use of the public.
Poulson is an editor at The Millennial Times.