The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) this week offered an airport improvement grant to the City of Edinburg worth $1.6 million dollars.
The news coincided with the city's "Edinburg Day" in Austin on Tuesday, Feb.10. The money will go towards runway expansion with the federal government paying 90 percent of the estimated project costs and the City paying the remaining ten percent.
The project will make improvements to the airport's cargo apron, and allow the facility to handle larger freight and cargo shipments. South Texas International Airport is located north of Edinburg on FM 490 and Hwy 281.
"This grant will allow the City of Edinburg to make important improvements to South Texas International Airport," said Rep. Aaron Peņa, D-Edinburg, in a statement. "Over the last few years the city has undertaken efforts to improve the airport's storage, hangar operations and runway in order to establish it as a premier freight and cargo facility. These funds will indeed help further that cause."
City leaders met with Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst to discuss a 20-year plan for the airport with a cost of $40 million. More immediately, the city needs an additional $6 million to expand the runway to accommodate large cargo planes for emergency preparedness and hurricanes, according to councilmember Gus Garcia.
The State of Texas has designated the airport as part of its emergency preparedness staging area. Edinburg's airport has emerged as a staging center for any number of state and federal agencies including the Border Patrol and FEMA.
In the event of a Category-3 hurricane, the airport would be a key facility in the region, Garcia said. Most airports would be underwater, making Edinburg's airport crucial for efficient and expeditious delivery of supplies by landing cargo planes at the facility, which is located on higher ground, he said.
"Edinburg would be available and would be ready," Garcia said. "As leaders we need to have the foresight."
With the proposed Hidalgo County Loop expected to pass near the airport, improving the facility's freight and cargo capacity remains an important economic development and infrastructure project.