HARLINGEN — After nearly 90 years, you can expect a few wrinkles, cracks and splinters.

The biggest construction project at Valley International Airport since 1990 has been green-lighted. Worn and deteriorating taxiways and aprons dating to the 1930s when it was Harlingen Army Airfield are about to be replaced.

The heavily cracked areas of the airport are a constant bother for airport tenants Fedex and DHL, jostling equipment and packages. Some aging areas of concrete are completely off-limits to the companies’ jets as they taxi or are towed from runways to parking areas.

18-month timetable

The $15.5 million project will take 18 months to complete, although airport officials expect no disruption for passengers and minimal problems for the facility’s air carriers.

The project consists of a full depth reconstruction of Taxiway H along with sections of the aircraft apron to make it safe for aircraft to taxi over the areas as well as providing additional aircraft parking.

“It’s the last of what’s left of the military airfield,” said Bryan Wren, assistant director of aviation at Valley International. “It’s about a million square feet. We’re going to full depth.

“You’re talking about 12 inches of lime-treated sub-grade, 14 inches of cement-treated base and then you have your 14 inches of concrete, so its actually over three feet in depth,” Wren said.

Existing concrete and rebar will be removed and the new materials installed to rehabilitate Taxiway H near the DHL freight facility and the new Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting Facility to the north of the terminal.

Then to the south of the terminal, old taxiway and airport parking areas will be replaced around the new Fedex ramp. Much of this concrete is unusable for aircraft to cross due to safety issues.

“This will allow Fedex a lot more room, and DHL, for their operations,” Wren said. “We’re also replacing two sections in front of the terminal.”

FAA funding most

About 90 percent of the funding for the construction comes from Federal Aviation Administration monies, with the airport supplying 10 percent from its passenger facility charges.

“We usually use that to cover our local share so there are no monies coming out of local funds,” Wren said.

Part of that federal funding was made public this week when U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville, made the announcement that $6.4 million would be allocated to Valley International for the project.

“We are excited to hear about the issuance of the grant for improvements at Valley International Airport and would like to thank Representative Vela for his help in securing this funding,” said Marv Esterly, director of aviation at Valley International. “This grant will help us to continue to improve the quality of our airport and provide world-class service to our tenants.”

The reconstruction project is the most expensive and longest the airport has undertaken since its terminal was constructed in 1990.

“The bids were awarded to Foremost Paving Inc.,” Wren said. “They’ve done outstanding work out there at the airport before. They did our runway end reconfiguration that helped us gain an additional 500 feet of use out of the runway, which has been a blessing for Fedex.

“They also did a Taxiway Alpha overlay a couple of years ago,” he added.

Facility upgrades

The upgrade to the runway system and aircraft parking areas is just the latest in a series of improvements the Harlingen airport has undertaken.

In May the airport opened a state-of-the-art, $3.8 million aircraft fire and rescue facility. The airport is currently undergoing a $1.2 million project to rip out the original late 1980s ceramic tile in the terminal building and replacing it with blue and gray epoxy terrazzo.

The airport also added new air chillers and fan coil units, a new HVAC system which has cut utility costs by 30 percent and new LED lighting. A new roof is coming next year.