Lee County Port Authority says $331M RSW expansion project is delayed

Reporter: Annette Montgomery
Published: Updated:

A $331M expansion project for Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW) has been delayed for at least a year, and we’re finally getting insight from staff with the Lee County Port Authority (LCPA) as to why.

Mark Fisher is the Senior Deputy Executive Director in Charge of Capital Programs and Strategic Planning for the Lee County Port Authority.

He said some of the reasons passengers won’t see the project completed until at least October 2025 is because of the pandemic and even Hurricane Ian.

“The project was originally supposed to start construction in 2020, the fall of 2020. Then the pandemic hit, and our airport board, wisely so, decided to delay the project one year, which thank goodness they did. So the project, construction began a fall in 2021,” Fisher said.

He also talked about supply chain issues after the pandemic.

“We all know now the post-pandemic construction boom was happening, particularly in Florida. So our construction manager, who’s in charge of the construction of the project, told us that, like everyone else, they had supply chain issues in 2021 and early 2022 had trouble retaining construction workers, because they were going to the highest bidder, understandably. So, there’s usually long lead times for production of steel and concrete and glass, cause there was a backlog,” he said.

The project looks at consolidating the Transportation Security Administration checkpoints into a new 16-lane configuration and providing additional seating, concession spaces and a business lounge. In total, more than 164,000 square feet of space will be remodeled, and 117,000 square feet of new walkways and concession space will be added to the airport terminal.

Fisher admits it’s a complex project but said it’s not over its $331M budget.

“Our construction manager, as they were building the project, has identified some better ways to do it, better ways to build it. So, they’re working with our designer right now, looking at ways to do it better, and all that is taking some time. So, at this point, the project is not over budget yet. Our airport board has given us a not to exceed budget for the project, and any increase to that would have to go back to them for approval, and it’d be at a public meeting,” Fisher said.

During a meeting on February 20, Robert Holborn, the assistant county attorney, stopped discussion on the expansion, citing potential litigation. Fisher said right now, there isn’t any pending litigation, but that could change.

“We don’t have any litigation pending, or in the pipeline or anything else, I think, a standard practice for the Port Authority, and I know, other agencies, the fact that you have a $300 million project that is a year late, could there be in the future litigation? Potentially,” Fisher said.

Right now, Fisher said the project should be completed in October 2025, but that is a tentative date.

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