The city of Brownsville is undertaking an expansion project at Brownsville South Padre Island International Airport located in south Texas, US, to prepare for handling the anticipated passenger growth at the airport.

The expansion project involves the construction of a new passenger terminal to eliminate the airport’s capacity constraints and improve visitor experience. It will replace the old terminal building featuring outdated infrastructure and poor passenger amenities.

Ground-breaking of the proposed terminal was held in October 2016. The city of Brownsville invited bids for the construction of the first phase of the proposed terminal in September 2017 and the second phase in April 2018.

The terminal is expected to become operational in 2020.

Features of the existing terminal at the airport

The airport currently has a single passenger terminal building with a floor area of 37,000ft². The terminal features a 1,660ft² departure lounge, 4,742ft² administration and operations facility, 2,044ft² ticketing and check-in area, as well as a 200ft² Transportation Security Administration (TSA) baggage screening area.

Baggage claim for both domestic and international passengers is featured at the terminal in addition to restaurants, Amelia’s gift shop, and Amelia’s Café. The US Customers and Border Protection (CBP) and Federal Inspection Services (FIS) facilities at the terminal occupy an area of 4,450ft².

The terminal has two gates with passenger boarding bridges.

The new passenger terminal at Brownsville South Padre Island International Airport

The new passenger terminal building will be situated on the current parking lot on the west side of the existing terminal. It will be a two-storey building with a total floor area of 85,000ft².

Ticketing counters, restaurants, shops, the administration office, and a baggage claim facility will be located on the ground floor, along with a separate FIS and CPB areas, as well as a baggage make-up and screening area.

The first floor will feature four passenger boarding gates, concessions, a TSA security screening area, and a departure lounge.

Runways and airside facilities

The airport currently has two asphalt-surfaced runways (13/31 and 18/36). The runway 13/31 is 2,255m-long and 46m-wide, while the runway 18/36 measures 1,829m-long and 46m-wide. The main runway is planned to be extended up to 3,048m in length to accommodate large aircraft.

“The city of Brownsville and Department of Aviation received a $1m grant from the US Economic Development Agency for the construction of a 20,000ft² air cargo facility.”

A new large apron will also be built to accommodate up to four large aircraft such as Boeing 737-800.

Car parking at the airport

The existing car park at Brownsville South Padre Island International Airport accommodates up to 236 cars. A new 120,000ft² car parking lot will be built to the west of the current parking area to accommodate up to 600 vehicles.

Financing for the Brownsville South Padre Island International Airport expansion

The estimated cost of the airport expansion project is $120m. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) awarded $12.7m in funding to support the construction of the new terminal in September 2017, while the Brownsville Public Utilities Board agreed to provide $1.2m to support the utility infrastructure.

The Brownsville City Commission approved a funding plan for the new terminal in May 2018. The Greater Brownsville Incentives Corp (GBIC) will pay approximately $945,000 a year for debt service on bonds to be issued by the city, and the Brownsville Community Improvement Corp (BCIC) will pay $365,000 a year, as per the funding plan.

The airport will also contribute up to $250,000 annually to the expansion project.

The city of Brownsville and Department of Aviation received a $1m grant from the US Economic Development Agency for the construction of a 20,000ft² air cargo facility.

Brownsville South Padre Island international airport history

The airport was originally named as Brownsville Municipal Airport at the time of construction in 1928 and was opened to the public in 1929. It was used by the US Army Air Force as an air base for pilot training and aircraft / engine overhaul testing during the Second World War.

The existing passenger terminal building was built in 1971, while the air traffic control tower was constructed in early-1980s.

The airport was renamed as Brownsville South Padre Island International Airport in 1983. The terminal underwent capacity enhancements between August 2001 and March 2004.