TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Gov. Rick Scott said Wednesday that the state will give Tampa International Airport $194 million to help pay for the largest expansion since the facility's opening in 1971.
Scott was at the airport to make the announcement, along with dozens of local officials, including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn.
"I couldn't think of any greater investment in our future," said Buckhorn.
The money will be used for a new rental car center, transit stop and people mover. Officials say the car rentals will be in a new building near the airport's entrance, and a people mover will connect the terminal and the rental center.
There are also plans for outdoor seating, restaurants and larger holding areas.
The state money, combined with nearly $750 million contributed by the airport, airlines and other stakeholders, means that the entire project will come to nearly a billion dollars
The money still must be approved by the state Legislature.
Scott and other area leaders say the expansion is necessary to entice tourists, create jobs and draw businesses to the area.
"Tampa's got a great airport," he said, adding that the area has seen more job creation than anywhere else in Florida in the past year.
"More tourists, more people moving here, more people buying homes, more people have jobs," he said. "That's why we need to do an expansion like this."
Construction is expected to begin later this year and could be completed by 2017. Scott says the project will create about 7,000 jobs.
Scott addressed a question of why he rejected billions of dollars in federal money for a high speed rail system linking Tampa, Orlando and Miami, but is supporting this project.
"I want to make sure your money is spent where we can get a return. I want to make sure you're not going to be stuck with a project that doesn't make sense long-term," he said. "The federal government was going to give us some money, we had to finish the project."
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