Brownsville plans airport overhaul

BROWNSVILLE — Mayor Tony Martinez has announced that Brownsville is planning to build a new Brownsville-South Padre Island International Airport terminal to expand its economic opportunities.

According to Interim Director of Aviation Sesha Vorrey, construction of the new airport terminal would take place directly in front of the existing terminal. Now in the planning stages of the project, he said preparation to build the terminal was started in 2014. An environmental and inventory assessment was completed in April of last year. The cost for the study was provided through Airport Improvement Program (AIP) and Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) funding.

Projects such as these are generally completed in three phases, Vorrey said. These phases consist of design, bidding and construction.

“It’s easy to say it’ll be completed in three phases, but there’s a lot of work to be done,” Vorrey said.

For these reasons, Martinez said it’s important to keep the existing airport in operation. The city hasn’t improved the airport in “probably 50 years,” so it’s important to make these improvements because of the city’s numerous advancements, the mayor said.

“I think there’s a lot of updating that’s required to meet the need of things that’s coming down the pike,” Martinez said.

“The airport presents a challenge for Brownsville,” he said. “We have probably not maximized our potential out there with the amount of land we have.”

“Our airport is the first thing a lot of people see when they come to Brownsville, so we need to make a good first impression,” the mayor said.

Construction of the new airport will bring additional airlines, especially with technologies such as SpaceX within its proximity, Vorrey said. A new airport also would bring business, more passengers and cargo attraction for cargo operators.

Extending the airport runway was another airport improvement Martinez was interested in working on. The mayor said there was already an extension request with the Federal Aviation Administration, but that particular item was going to take more time and would have to undergo further studies.

“A letter was given to the FAA in the last couple of years that was sent to us from SpaceX,” Martinez said. “They had some interest in trying to bring some air cargo in here that would require an additional extension to the existing runway. Without a letter of interest the FAA would not be considering it, but that letter of interest is in their hands.”

Extending the runway would allow the airport to look into accommodating bigger cargo operating planes, Vorrey said. In order to transport cargo at a 100 percent load factor and obtain peak ambient temperature settings, they would need longer runways.

With the airport bringing in approximately 9,000 passengers per month, these two improvements would allow the airport to operate at its maximum potential.

The new airport terminal will host state-of-the-art amenities, being built with the latest technologies available on the market. It will feature a double floor, four passenger-loading bridges and be built using environmentally-friendly technologies.

The airport terminal is estimated to cost $25 million.

Funding for air operation and the ramp will be coming from the FAA.

The new terminal will be funded by the city through certificates of obligation.

As of yet, a groundbreaking ceremony for the construction has been scheduled for October or November.

Vorrey said the terminal should be up and running in 2018.

“The city airport is the gateway to the city,” Vorrey said.