Jun. 16--HARLINGEN -- Construction crews will soon begin work to replace part of Valley International Airport that has been in service for more than 50 years, using a $3.2 million federal grant.
The Federal Aviation Administration grant will be the primary funding source to reconstruct one of the airport's main taxiways, Michael Browning, Valley International Airport's Director of Aviation, said.
"That taxiway serves between our primary runway and the east side of the airport where the air cargo and general aviation aircraft park," Browning said.
"That taxiway was constructed by the military when it was a base back in the 1940s and not much has been done to it since. It wasn't constructed for the weight of the aircraft we serve now and the work is long overdue."
Browning said the contract for the $5.4 million project has been awarded to the San Benito construction firm of Ballenger Construction Co. and the work would begin July 17.
"(Ballenger) has done a lot of work with us in the past, and this project should take about 300 calendar days," he said.
"It's going to require the demolition of the existing taxiway and removal of the material. They'll have to bring in new material and start from ground zero. It will be an extensive project."
Browning said the construction would close the airport's primary 8,300-foot-long runway for two months, forcing aircraft to land on the airport's 7,500-foot-long secondary runway.
The FAA grant is awarded on an annual basis, and the grant's amount is determined by the number of boardings at an airport during the given year, Browning said.
Funding is provided in the form of reimbursement for capital improvement projects, Browning said.
"The program is called the Airport Improvement Program, and the money comes from the ticket tax passengers pay when they buy an airline ticket," he said.
"It goes into a trust fund and airports receive money from the FAA for capital improvements ."
While this year's grant won't cover the entire cost of the project, Browning said the airport would use a portion of next year's grant to pay for the remainder of the construction.
Extending the taxiway will cost about $8 million.
The grant will fund the widening of Taxiway U, which will allow it to better serve the larger aircraft that now use the airport; construction is expected to begin in October 2012 and take six months...
The budget cuts in its Airport Improvement Plan are from about $3.5 billion to $2.75 billion.
The project is necessary for the construction of a parallel taxiway between the two runways, part of an effort to improve safety at the nation's fourth-busiest airport.