RSW delays airport expansion as passenger traffic slashed amid coronavirus

Published: Updated:
Credit: WINK News

The coronavirus is impacting airports nationwide and Southwest Florida International (RSW) is no exception. In fact, flights have decreased by 60% and that raises other issues.

Typically during this time of year, you would see a lot of traffic here at RSW, but due to COVID-19 many people aren’t flying. And for now, major projects at the airport will be grounded.

Due to CDC guidelines urging people not to travel, Ben Siegel, executive director of the Lee County Port Authority, says the number of passengers has dropped.

“Our traffic is down probably in the 90 to 95% range. That’s just an enormous decline,” Siegel said.

In addition to that, not as many planes are taking off.

He said, “When you compare it to our original plan schedule that we have from the airlines pre-COVID-19, it’s down probably at least 60% at this point.”

The problem? Those passengers help pay for future projects like the airport’s terminal expansion project, designed to give the airport a new look and add more security lines for faster entry.

Today, at Siegel’s recommendation, Lee County Commissioners delayed the project for a year.

“Obviously passenger facility charges are not a stable source of revenue right now for this, so it would be silly for us, at this time, to go out and do bidding when we have no really financial resources to commit,” Siegel’s explained.

He added that the money from passenger facility charges would pay for $150 million out of the $250 million project.

However, a second project involving passenger boarding bridges may stay on track.

The port authority is accepting bids now and may get federal funding to move forward.

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