The Federal Aviation Administration has awarded the City of Brownsville $1.6 million to enhance the Brownsville South Padre Island International Airport, which will be used to replace the two existing passenger boarding bridges.
U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela announced in a press release that a portion of the funds has been allocated from the CARES Act, which included provisions to alleviate any financial burden airports incurred during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The City of Brownsville has made huge strides toward the completion of the new and improved Brownsville South Padre Island International Airport,” Vela, D-Brownsville, said in the press release.
“This grant will support continued enhancements to the airport and allow for improved and comfortable experiences for those traveling to and from South Texas. I am proud to have offered my support for this project and will continue to work with our federal and local entities to ensure the completion of these upgrades.”
The City of Brownsville said the monies are “entitlement funds,” meaning that as part of the nation’s Airport Improvement Program, all compliant airports receive a direct award based on their passenger numbers for the previous fiscal year. Due to COVID-19, the FAA is using 2019 data, which is positive, as it does not reduce the amount eligible to be awarded.
The funds and the improvements envisioned are to pay for new passenger boarding bridges, or jet bridges, included in phase three of the new passenger terminal project. Airport management had agreed with FAA to break down the funding in multiyear awards to position BRO, as the airport is referred to in FAA lingo, and the city to better compete for federal monies. “We expect another award for the same category during the next fiscal year, the city said.
“Since it’s part of the new passenger terminal project, the benefit is having the newest, most modern, and efficient terminal in the RGV, which includes state-of-the art technology for passenger comfort and safety,” city officials said.
Officials said despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Brownsville continued to see tourism, predominately medical tourism. As industries continue to reopen, the city hopes to see continued tourism growth.
“Air travel continues to be the safest, most efficient way to travel. According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA, which supports aviation with global standards for airline safety, security, efficiency, and sustainability) more than 1.2 billion people have traveled since the start of the pandemic, with only 44 COVID-19 cases reported or confirmed of potential transmission associated with a flight,” officials said.
Officials said now that the vaccine is available for everyone, they have seen an “amazing” uptick in travel, with American and United airlines reporting load factors at 96% and 95% respectively on flights out of Brownsville South Padre Island International Airport during April.