Edinburg has “shifted gears” on its initial plan for major airport improvements that could determine the city’s future as a center for air transportation, according to city officials.

The last 20-year master plan for the airport was developed in 1997. However, the City of Edinburg has adopted a revised master plan for South Texas International Airport that would see more than $212 million go towards various airport improvements over the next 20 years.

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 and 2020 at a cost of $67 million. Phase III would include a terminal building facility for future chartered flights sometime between 2020 and 2030 at a cost of $47.6 million.

The total cost for all three phases also includes a fire station, additional air-cargo buildings, and hangar facilities for aircraft storage. 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.

The airport has already been designated as the Disaster Relief Center for the Lower Gulf Coast and Rio Grande Valley area. FEMA and military forces in Texas have also designated the airport as a hub for staging operations for various emergencies.

“Any master plan is meant to be a changing document. It can change next month, or in a couple of months or next year or the next five years. It’s a living document so things may change,” said Daniel Tijerina, director of public works who also oversees the airport. “The City Council in a couple of years from now may want to amend the master plan. Right now it’s an update, but they may want to amend it and say ‘instead of having air cargo, and chartered flights we would like to have it all air-cargo or other things’ but what we are doing is that we are trying to utilize the airport for it’s purpose.”

Phase I of the masterplan includes development to widen and extend the runway from its existing size of 75 feet wide and 5,000 feet long, to 150 feet wide and 10,000 feet long by 2015.

Phase I would also include lighting system upgrades and an “instrument landing system” which is a $5 million system meant for landing planes in near zero visibility.

“The other part is of course the land acquisition,” Tijerina said. “Right now we have about 550 acres but in order to extend the runway to 10,000 feet … you’re looking at almost two miles of runway so we are moving what we currently have, which is about a mile to double the size of that as well as the width as well.”

The City Council adopted the plan at their last regular meeting on June 2. Officials have now sent the document to TxDOT aviation in Austin and a copy to the Federal Aviation Administration in Dallas. The FAA will likely approve the document after determining compliance within the next several months.