It’s often said that Brownsville is the second most historical city in the Lone Star State after San Antonio. It’s also the largest city in the Rio Grande Valley, having a population estimated at more than 200,000 people today. Yet, this city on the border by the sea has the smallest and oldest of the three full-service airports in the entire region. The other two are Valley International Airport in Harlingen and McAllen International.
But this year, the Brownsville South Padre Island International Airport is having a major uplift with the construction of a brand new terminal. It will turn the airport into one of the region’s most modern facilities.
The $50-million project is receiving funding through the Federal Aviation Administration and by the city, each contributing 50 percent of the cost. The expansion will make the airport a four-gate passenger facility, compared to two today. By contrast, VIA has seven gates and McAllen International has six gates.
Francisco Partida, special project manager at the Brownsville/SPI airport, said they expect project completion by the end of 2020. He said the new terminal will take over the existing terminal, which will be demolished once it’s built.
Partida said the number of boardings have been increasing and the new terminal will meet the demand for the future.
“We are experiencing double digit growth,” he said, “and exceeding our expectations.”
Local airports by the numbers
He said there were 109,000 boardings from January through August of this year, in comparison to 91,000 during the same period a year ago. Partida said the Brownsville South Padre Island International Airport project includes an increased parking area for short- and long-term parking.
The airport has a 7,000-foot log runaway. By contrast, VIA’s main runway is 8,301-feet long and McAllen’s airport runway is 7,120-feet long.
American and United are the two major airlines serving the airport. VIA has four major airlines – Southwest, United, Frontier and American – and two seasonal ones – Sun Country and Delta. American, United, Aeromar and Allegiant airlines serve McAllen.
The dedication of the Brownsville South Padre Island International Airport terminal took place in 1929. VIA’ completion came in 1991, a couple of years after acquisition from the U.S. Air Force. The completion of McAllen’s airport terminal was in 1993 with a major expansion in 2015.
Jose Mullet, VIA director of air services and business development, said the Harlingen airport has gone through a number of improvement projects as well.