Airport improvements and additional air connections are in the offing for Puerto Rico’s sister island Culebra, whose beautiful and uncluttered beaches set amid an unspoiled environment make it a popular tourist destination.
Rolando Padua, general manager of the Aviation Bureau, said the Ports Authority is readying to invest $2.3 million to improve Benjamín Rivera Noriega Airport, which serves this small island located 20 miles off the northeast coast of Puerto Rico.
The investment is part of a capital improvement plan that will benefit Puerto Rico’s nine regional airports to the tune of $33.1 million, most of which is coming from the federal government, Padua said.
The outlay includes $25.8 million from the Federal Aviation Administration and $7.3 million from the Ports Authority.
Ports also is negotiating with at least two carriers to provide additional air links aimed at giving travelers a wider range of options to travel between mainland Puerto Rico and Culebra.
Those options were recently expanded with the startup of a new service by Cape Air, one of the largest independent regional airlines in the U.S. with apresence in the Caribbean since 1998. Starting on Feb. 15, the airline began operating four daily flights between San Juan and Culebra.
Padua declined to identify the carriers interested in serving Culebra but said one is an airline already in operation while the other is a new company being set up to provide just such a service.
Some 62,000 people fly in and out of Culebra each year, according to Padua.
In addition to Cape Air, Culebra is presently served by Air Link, Air Flamenco, and M&N Aviation, a private air charter that operates out of Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport in Isla Verde and provides 24-hour executive jet service from San Juan to any destination in the Western hemisphere.
Improvements to Culebra’s airport, he said, span different areas. The bulk of the investment, or $1.3 million, will go towards repaving the airport’s two air taxi ways, rehabilitating the terminal’s front apron, and replacing signage in bad conditions.
Plans also call for building a new structure to store all maintenance equipment, for which $200,000 has been assigned.
An additional $765,000, out of the total $2.3 million budget, will go toward rehabilitating the protective railings around the airport’s perimeter. Padua said the work is expected to take about 10 months and will be carried out in phases so as not to affect the airport’s operations. Bids for the work open in March and a decision on the winning bid is expected sometime in May or June.