New FAA money means city can award contract - Brownsville Herald: Local News

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New FAA money means city can award contract

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Posted: Tuesday, September 18, 2018 11:03 pm

U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela said he has secured $10 million in new federal funding for the Brownsville South Padre Island International Airport passenger terminal project, on top of $14 million already committed by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Vela’s office announced the news Tuesday, noting that the congressman worked with the FAA and key members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to get extra money to proceed with what he dubbed “one of the region’s most critical infrastructure projects.”

More funding became necessary when the estimated cost of the project rose from $30 million to $55 million for added improvements and related construction, Vela said. Of the additional $10 million, $2 million was announced in August and $8 million on Tuesday.

“This project is key for South Texas, and the $24 million in federal funding is critical to ensuring this project finally comes to fruition,” Vela said. “The new terminal will provide better access to the region, boost economic activity, and vastly improve the passenger experience at (Brownsville).”

The federal funding will pay for demolishing the old terminal and building a new one, plus construction of infrastructure including ramps and roads.

Airport Director Bryant Walker said the announcement of the additional $8 million — supplemental funds from the FAA’s Airport Improvement Program — means the city now has the money necessary to award the construction contract, which he expects to happen on Oct. 2.

Two factors behind the higher-than-anticipated construction estimates may be tariffs, which increase the cost of materials, and the fact that most of the paving is scheduled to happen near the project’s end, which injects uncertainty in terms of cost, which in turn inflates estimates, Walker said.

Depending on which way the market goes, the terminal project could wind up costing less than anticipated, he said.

“The reality is it could wind up saving us money in the long run,” Walker said.

The new terminal will be in operation 24 months from the start of construction, though the jet bridges can’t be installed until the old terminal has been demolished and the area paved, he said. Until then, passengers will be shuttled from the new terminal to the aircraft for ground boarding, Walker said.

He praised Vela for working hard to make the project a reality.

“We can’t thank the congressman enough for his help in securing the funding that was vital for the city to complete the project on budget, and with the other available funds to match,” Walker said.

sclark@brownsvilleherald.com

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