HARLINGEN — Valley International Airport officials are preparing to begin the bidding process to upgrade parking lots, add close-in covered parking and increase the number of spaces in paid parking.

Resurfacing is in store for both employee lots, the rental car lot, and long-term and close-in lots.

“We’re going to open bids in May and start construction in June, and we’re adding an additional approximately 200 spaces as well to accommodate the continuing growth that we’re seeing,” said Bryan Wren, assistant director of aviation at VIA.

Canopies offering protection from the sun and rain will no doubt be welcomed by airport passengers

“The covered parking is something no airport in South Texas has,” Wren said. “It’s an amenity we want to offer. Close-in is approximately 800 spaces. There will be parking structure canopies and each canopy covers three spaces.”

The entrance to the terminal building is also set to be enhanced, with new decorative structures and a larger passenger walkway toward the main gate.

“We’re also going to enhance the customer experience as you walk through the parking lot,” Wren said. “There’s going to be a lot of artwork and décor and etched concrete. Believe it or not, what that does is it kind of gets people’s mind off ‘I’m walking to an airport’ and focus on that instead.”

Passenger enplanements at the airport in January were up 78 percent over last year, and airport officials expect that trend to continue with seven passenger airlines now operating at VIA.

Southwest Airlines this month began a process to increase its number of available seats in the market by 82 percent, going from four daily flights to seven, and in June pushing it to eight flights per day to and from VIA.

American Airlines also is expected to add seats in the market as the airline transitions from its 50-seat regional jets to Embraer 175s, which seat 75.