City officials are hopeful for a major injection of federal funds they say can jump start massive and rapid development at South Texas International Airport.
The city intends to apply for a Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) Program grant city officials say can potentially fund the entire amount of the $212 million needed in its new 20 year master plan for the airport.
If Edinburg’s bid for the grant is successful, the 20-year plan can be cut in half to 10 or even five years to complete improvements. Mayor pro-tem Noe Garza calls the next crucial step towards a world-class airport.
“We are applying for it. We are going to go after it real hard. Once we apply for it I want to make sure the mayor and I and other City Councilmembers go back to Washington to push it,” said Garza, who is on the city-airport development committee, and has long envisioned a major cargo airport in Edinburg.
“We are going to follow that very hard because we want to make sure that they understand and they see that Edinburg is out there,” Garza said.
The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) recently announced that $1.5 billion is available in the TIGER Grant as a result of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), or Stimulus Bill of 2009. The grant is meant for projects that improve highways or bridges, public transit, passenger and freight rail or port infrastructure.
TIGER Program grants will be awarded only for proposals that involve at least $20 million in projects, and is capped at $300 million.
Garza says as soon as the city’s application is filed he would like to plan a trip to Washington to further clarify the city’s intentions at the airport. Garza said he has already been to Washington twice talking to all the departments involved in aviation and cargo to secure funding.
Garza said he would like to plan one more trip to Washington once the application is filed.
“As soon as we find out, we have sent in the application, then I would like to plan a trip to Washington to make sure that they understand what it is we want to do with our airport,” Garza said.
The City Council adopted the master plan at their regular meeting on June 2. The master plan highlights various airport improvements over the next 20 years including runway and taxiway improvements, a fire station, additional air-cargo buildings, and hangar facilities for aircraft storage.
The plan is to be completed in three phases possibly by 2030, according to a draft of the master plan update obtained by the Edinburg Review. Phase I beginning in 2010 is a $75 million improvement to the runway that the city would like to see complete by the year 2015.
Phase II activities would include a second parallel runway sometime between 2015 to 2020 at a cost of $67 million. Phase III would include a terminal building facility for future chartered flights sometime between 2020 an 2030 at a cost of $47.6 million.
Officials say the plan is a two fold process. One is for air-cargo and economic development for the city and the other is for emergency preparedness.
“I feel personally that once this runway is in, that airport will sell itself,” Garza said. “That airport will produce all the income it needs to finish out whatever we need to do in the next 20 years. My direction, what I’ve been wanting to do is get this airport where it should be as a cargo airport and be able to put an Edinburg airport on the map.”