Brownsville/SPI airport wins FAA grant

BROWNSVILLE — The Federal Aviation Administration has approved the Brownsville South Padre Island International Airport for a $12.7 million grant to go toward construction of a new, 85,000-square-foot terminal building to the replace the current outdated facility.

The grant announcement came from the office of U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville, Wednesday night.

“Since my first term in office, I have advocated for funding for the Brownsville airport,” he said. “The expansion will allow even more access to the continually growing tourism industry in Brownsville and on South Padre Island, while boosting economic development throughout South Texas.”

Vela expressed his gratitude to the Brownsville City Commission, the airport advisory board and city staff for working hard to secure the funding.

Mayor Tony Martinez said he looks forward to completion of the new terminal in the near future.

“This grant award marks a significant contribution to the advancement of the (airport) as it expands to benefit Brownsville’s growing economy and transportation infrastructure,” he said.

Airport Director Bryant Walker said building a new terminal will cost “north of $30 million.” Last year the FAA committed $5 million to the project. Then less than three weeks ago, the airport submitted a terminal construction grant application to the FAA, which hadn’t been done before, he said.

Walker said that the airport’s close relationship with the FAA district office in Dallas helped ensure a quick turnaround on the grant application, though timing also played a role.

“We applied when funds might be coming available from other projects that got shut down, either for the winter or because airports didn’t come up with a match,” he said. “We were fortunate that enough funds were returned that we increased our commitment from the FAA from $5 million to $12.7 million.”

On Tuesday city commissioners approved the new terminal design. The next step is to go back to the commission for formal acceptance of the FAA grant, Walker said. In the meantime, having a completed design in hand means the airport can proceed with the engineering phase, he said.

Walker said he hasn’t seen the award letter yet and until he does won’t know precisely the terms of the grant or how the FAA wants the money directed. When he has that information he’ll be able to go to the city and the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation with a specific request for additional funds to help get the project done, he said.