ORLANDO-Seventeen national airlines, which underwrite Orlando International Airport’s debt, face an Oct. 31 deadline to decide the construction timeframe of a two-year planned new international terminal. A further delay will increase the construction cost by 21% to an estimated $692 million.

The project is one of the largest planned commercial construction ventures in metro Orlando in a decade.

The airlines want to delay the opening of the international terminal until June 2005 because they question the need for the expansion at this time. In return for the delay, however, the carriers would approve other construction work.

The deal currently being negotiated by the airlines and the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority would have the carriers pay for a portion of the $200 million in improvements scheduled for the main terminal, a larger Federal inspection station in the international terminal; and permanent stations for all people-mover trams. The balance of the $200 million cost would be covered by passenger fees.

The airlines fear GOAA will hit them with higher rents and fees to cover the new construction phase. That’s why the carriers have balked at giving the work a green light.

The new international terminal was supposed to open in December 2002. The facility would have a public terminal area, a 12-gate concourse, a VIP lounge, retail and parking.

Although the individual airlines are legally tenants at the airport, they have clout on big funding projects because they agreed years ago to cover whatever debt load the airport encumbers.

The new work allots $52 million for elevators and pedestrian skybridges leading to the parking garage; $49 million for an improved people-mover system between the north and south terminals; and expansion of the Federal inspection station to accommodate 2,000 passengers instead of 1,500.

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