OIA South Terminal on target for 2021 completion

Transportation officials say they are making progress on a $2.8 billion project that will expand capacity at Orlando International Airport (OIA) -- one of the largest airport construction projects going on in the country right now.

Construction on the airport’s South Terminal is flying, as the massive project will eventually bring 19 new gates to OIA. It’s necessary, airport officials say, because of Central Florida’s growth.

“The forecast that we look at on the short term suggests that we can be exceeding 50 million annual passengers before the end of this year,” said Greater Orlando Aviation Association CEO Phil Brown.

Last year was a record-breaking year, with 47.7 million passengers flying in and out of the airport. Officials say the airport was only built to accommodate 40 million annual passengers, so it’s already stretched thin, but the terminal will alleviate that.

“We think that we can add another 11 million reasonably with that,” Brown adds.

Of all the issues that could pop up during a construction project this large, the biggest concern for airport officials is staying within budget.

“The challenges that we see are in pricing, labor, construction labor, materials,” Brown notes.

The project has started and stopped several times over the years, but officials are more focused than ever on finishing the job.

“Just so everybody knows, growth doesn't always go in a smooth, upward arch, so we always got to be ready for that,” said Brown.

Airport officials say this project is on target to be completed by 2021.